by Jim Michaels, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday the Pentagon would bolster missile defense of the U.S. homeland with the addition of 14 interceptor missiles in the face of a growing threat from North Korea.
The additional 30 missiles will bring to 44 the number of interceptors defending the United States as part of a network in California and Alaska, Hagel told reporters in a Pentagon briefing.
The decision expands the system's ability to shoot down long-range missiles in flight before they could reach U.S. territory.
James Miller, defense undersecretary for policy, said in a speech Tuesday that the Pentagon has the ability to deploy up to 14 additional missile interceptors, "if needed." He did not say in the speech that a decision had been made to do so.
"As we think about our homeland missile-defense posture, we do not have a 'just-in-time' policy," Miller said. "Our policy is to stay ahead of the threat - and to continue to ensure that we are ahead of any potential future Iranian or North Korean ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) capability."
Miller noted that last December, North Korea launched a satellite into space, demonstrating its mastery of some of the same technologies required for development of an intercontinental ballistic missile.