Feds may take lead on future missile alerts
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz’s attempt to give the federal government responsibility for alerting the public of a missile threat was passed by the U.S. Senate as part of a $750 billion National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 that focuses on evolving threats from China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.
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U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz’s attempt to give the federal government responsibility for alerting the public of a missile threat was passed by the U.S. Senate as part of a $750 billion National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 that focuses on evolving threats from China, Russia, North
Korea and Iran.
The Senate passed the measure 86-8 last week. The House plans a vote
on its version of the bill in July.
The missile alert language in the Senate version would strengthen
the way states and local governments use the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, the Federal Emergency Management Agency platform that emergency management professionals across the country use to issue warnings, according to Schatz’s office.
“In the event of a missile threat, the people who know first should
be the people who tell
everyone else,” Schatz, a Democrat, said in a release. “This legislation makes clear that the authority to send missile alerts rests with the federal government.”
On Jan. 13, 2018, a state warning officer with the
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency mistakenly pushed out a drill test as a real alert. Residents statewide reacted in shock and panic when the emergency notice said, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Schatz said last year that his “Authenticating Local Emergencies and Real Threats” (ALERT) Act would require FEMA to
establish a process to promptly notify state authorities when a missile alert is issued so they could activate their own protective action plans
to ensure public safety.
The measure was
approved a year ago by the Senate but did not pass in the House.
The Senate Armed
Services Committee said in passing the $750 billion funding authorization that the world “is more unstable and dangerous than it has been in recent memory.”
“Our margin of military supremacy has eroded and is undermined by new threats from strategic competitors like China and Russia,” the committee said. “At the same time, we are confronting persistent threats from North Korea, Iran and terrorist organizations.”
Rapid technological changes characterize the new threats — and particularly so from China, which has long-range ballistic and cruise missiles and is developing hypersonic weapons.
The Senate NDAA calls for the expenditure of
$275 million for the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii, which is expected to cost about $1 billion and is planned to have initial
operating capability in late 2023. The Missile Defense Agency is still evaluating sites on Oahu for the new radar, according to Schatz.
A total of $6.7 million is earmarked for a Pacific
Discriminating Radar at a location still to be determined, while $136 million is being directed toward a Long-Range Discrimination Radar in Alaska.
The defense bill also calls for $68 million in defense spending for a special operations forces undersea operational training facility at Pearl Harbor.
U.S. Special Operations Command said the facility would support Naval Special Warfare Group Three, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One and the Naval Special Warfare Center Advanced Training Command with an undersea vehicle training tank, instruction and operational gear storage.