Phasing in BMD
Can plan to move Aegis ships to Spain survive Washington budget battle?
By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent
mitted to our defense relationship
with Europe even as we face grow-
ing budget constraints at home.”
The “budget constraints” Pa-
netta mentioned, however, could
create political resistance in
Congress to the relocation of four
ships and nearly 3,500 Sailors, fam-
ily members and civilian workers,
particularly if the move requires
military construction funds to
update or expand facilities at Rota.
The plan also could face political opposition in Spain, where hostility to U.S. military presence in
the 1990s forced the Air Force out
of Torrejón Air Base.
Panetta’s visit to Brussels, his
first meeting as U.S. defense secretary with NATO officials, came at a time when the
future of the Cold War-era alliance and U.S. support
are being questioned here at home, particularly as the
European allies made deep cuts in their military budgets and capabilities during the global economic slump.
That may explain why Panetta emphasized the significance of the ship-basing decision to the alliance,
saying it was “too important not to continue to invest
in this partnership.
“In this challenging fiscal environment, partner-
ships like NATO are even more essential to protecting
our common interests,” he said. “Our work together to
boost NATO’s naval presence in this critical region will
help us to better achieve the goal of safety and security
for all member states.”
The ships “will also support NATO’s critical efforts
to build effective missile defense,” and they “will per-
form a variety of other important missions, including
participating in the Standing NATO Maritime Groups,
as well as joining in naval exercises, in port visits, and
maritime security cooperation activities,” he added.
The four Aegis-equipped warships the Navy plans to base in Spain
are intended to be a vital part of the Phased Adaptive Approach program to provide ballistic missile defense for NATO nations and Israel.
; USS Monterey’s deployment to the eastern Mediterranean
was the beginning of Phase 1, which will be completed with the
installation of an X-band radar in Turkey.
; Phase 2 would bolster the Phase 1 assets with an “Aegis Ashore”
facility in Romania, which is supposed to be operational by 2015.
; Phase 3 would add a second Aegis Ashore site in Poland by 2018.
; The final phase would equip the ships and land sites with “a much
more powerful missile” than previously installed. It is supposed to be
operational by 2020
At a time of growing opposition in Congress to basing U.S. forces overseas and fading sup- port for America’s contribution to Europe’s
security, the U.S. Navy is planning to relocate four
Aegis-equipped warships, with their crews and family
members, to Rota, Spain.
The forward basing, similar to the longstanding assignment of an aircraft carrier and amphibious battle groups in
Japan, is to be part of the U.S. component in the Phased
Adaptive Approach (PAA) program to provide ballistic
missile defense (BMD) for NATO nations and Israel.
The Navy provided an interim BMD capability with
the routine deployment to Europe of the Aegis-equipped cruiser USS Monterey, which recently was
relieved by the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile
destroyer USS The Sullivans.
But in announcing the ship movements on Oct. 5 at
NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Defense
Secretary Leon E. Panetta said the decision also “should
send a very strong signal that the United States is still
continuing to invest in this alliance, and that we are com-