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March 8, 2012
Notes from the Pentagon

Recent congressional testimony confirmed North Korea’s development of a new long-range, road-mobile missile that can reach American shores, increasing the threat of a nuclear attack on the United States.

“There is development within North Korea of a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile system that we’ve observed,” Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee on Friday.

“We have not observed it being tested yet, to my knowledge. We are watching the development very closely.” .

The new mobile missile was first reported by The Washington Times on Dec. 5.

The road-mobile ICBM bolsters North Korea’s already-deployed launch-pad-fired Taepodong-2 missile that has been tested.

The new missile is also raising concerns in the U.S. intelligence community that North Korea will sell the missile to Iran, as it has done with past medium-range Nodong missiles.

Adm. Willard said the mobile missile is “advertised to be significant in terms of its range capability.”

The admiral, who retires this month, said once the missile is proven, “there will be a decision made with regard to how we posture to deal with what could be something less predictable than Taepodong-2 or some of the other ballistic missile capabilities that are a little more easy to observe.”

Road-mobile missiles are much harder to detect and counter than static missiles. They are usually solid-fueled, allowing them to be fired much faster than liquid-fueled missiles.

Under questioning from Rep. Michael R. Turner, Ohio Republican, Adm. Willard said the new North Korean mobile ICBM would cause an increase in missile defense efforts.

“I think that’s one of the posture options that will have to be considered, yes,” he said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Turner again raised the new North Korean missile during a hearing on missile defenses.

“A rogue mobile intercontinental ballistic missile would be a profound leap forward in North Korea’s ballistic missile technology,” Mr. Turner asked.

Bradley H. Roberts, deputy assistant defense secretary for missile defense and nuclear policy, acknowledged at a subcommittee hearing that the new missile poses a “direct threat” to the United States.

Marine CorpsGen. James Mattis, commander of the U.S. Central Command, on Tuesday confirmed that al Qaeda is making a comeback in Iraq.

Asked during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing if the terrorist group behind the Sept. 11 attacks is recovering in Iraq after being hit hard by U.S. forces, Gen. Mattis said: “Yes, sir. They are. It’s not significant. It won’t threaten the [Iraqi] government. It’ll kill a lot of innocent people.”

The Washington Times first reported Sunday that the terrorist groupwas mounting a comeback and had carried out more attacks in two months this year than it did in the second half of 2011, when the U.S. military was pulling out.

A U.S. official said the comeback does not mean the group has regained the strength it had in the past.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz told defense reporters recently that the service needs a new long-range bomber to penetrate Chinese air defenses.

“I’ll tell you why we need a bomber,” Gen. Schwartz said. “Do you think that the Chinese have established one of the world’s best air defense environments in their eastern provinces just to invest their national treasure?”

Also, Iran has integrated air defenses around “certain locations,” a reference to nuclear sites.

“I would say they’re not doing this for the fun of it,” he said. “They’re doing it because they have a sense of vulnerability. I ask you, what is it that conveys that sense of vulnerability to others?

“One of those things is long-range strike, and that is an asset that the United States of America should not concede. That’s why a long-range strike bomber is relevant and will continue to be relevant.”

Gen. Schwartz said at a Feb. 29 breakfast that the bomber is part of the Pentagon’s new Air Sea Battle Concept that calls for closer coordination between the Navy and Air Force to counter China’s submarines, warships, aircraft, missiles and cyberweapons.

“It is certainly a maritime theater, but I would remind that air and space sort of covers all of the maritime as well, and so global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applies without a doubt,” he said.

“Lift. Strike if that’s required. But importantly, I think this is an area where we and the Navy, in part through our Air Sea Battle initiative and other efforts, are collaborating to maximize our leverage together in the Asia-Pacific, particularly in those areas of the commons that are not under national sovereignty.”

The four-star general said Chinese weaponry is challenging.

“They are improving, which is why I argue … we, too, need to improve. Being static is not the place America wants to be.”

Adm. William H. McRaven, head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, told the Senate this week that special operations forces will increasingly be used throughout the world for both counterterrorism operations and training.

“I fully expect the operational demands placed upon [special operations] to increase across the next decade, and beyond,” Adm. McRaven said in a statement made public Monday by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Adm. McRaven said special operations forces are engaged in direct and indirect activities.

Direct commando work was shown in last year’s successful raid by Navy SEALs in Abbattobad, Pakistan, where they killed Osama bin Laden.

Direct action involves “technologically enabled small-unit precision lethality, focused intelligence and interagency cooperation integrated on a digitally networked battlefield.”

“In todays global counterterrorism fight, U.S. [special operations forces] continue to directly degrade al Qaeda and its affiliates’ leadership around the world, greatly reducing their ability to effectively plan and conduct operations.”

Commando work is done with extreme risk, precise execution and delivers “high payoff” results that are “immediate, visible to the public and have had tremendous effects on our enemies networks throughout the decade,” he said.

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