Experts: National capital region open to cruise missile threat:
Congress has cancelled funding for an advanced missile defense system that has been deployed across the D.C. area during the last few years to prevent against a rising threat from cruise missile strikes.
Congress officially cut funding this month for JLENS, or the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor, a high-tech radar system that casts a wide-ranging protective net across the region to detect and intercept missiles or enemy planes before they reach American soil.
The system was placed on the budgetary chopping block following a high-profile incident last year in which the blimp-like system broke free from its tethers in Maryland and wreaked havoc across the east coast.
Defense industry insiders and former military officials say that despite last year’s snafu, the system has proven critical to the capital region’s defense against potential cruise missile attacks from rogue nations such as Iran, North Korea, and Russia.
The United States has already invested billions into the program, and was set to integrate the system into the larger defense network protecting the eastern seaboard.
U.S. military leaders have described JLENS as critical to U.S. defenses and requested an additional $27.2 million this year to keep it operational. These officials argued that the program fills an essential gap as the threat from cruise missile attacks increases.
“There are three types of missiles we worry about, the third one’s the cruise missile attack,” Adm. Bill Gortney chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command,told lawmakers earlier this month.
“The Russians are employing these cruise missiles in Syria today, both from bombers, ships, and submarines,” Gotney said. “There’s no operational or tactical requirement to do it. They’re messaging us that they have this capability and those missiles can have a nuclear-tipped or conventional warhead.”