Back in April, I asked how the Ground-based Midcourse Defense might be adapted in response to North Korea’s nascent (or embryonic) ICBM force. Thanks to Steven Aftergood of FAS, we now have the official answer. It’s included in the replies to Questions for the Record (QFRs) from a November 2011 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. The hearing volume and the QFRs now appear at the FAS Secrecy News site.

The question from Rep. Doug Lamborn and the answer from Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller appear below the jump.

Mr. LAMBORN. Do you agree with Secretary Gates who said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in June, ‘‘With the continued development of long-range missiles and potentially a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile and their continued development of nuclear weapons, North Korea is in the process of becoming a direct threat to the United States.’’ And two weeks later he said, ‘‘North Korea now constitutes a direct threat to the United States. The president told [China’s] President Hu that last year. They are developing a road-mobile ICBM. I never would have dreamed they would go to a road-mobile before testing a static ICBM. It’s a huge problem. As we’ve found out in a lot of places, finding mobile missiles is very tough.’’ Do you concur with Secretary Gates’ statements? Was the question of a North Korean road-mobile missile factored in to the decision in 2009 to abandon the Third Site and the deployment of 44 ground based interceptors at the missile fields at Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base? If North Korea begins fielding an array of road mobile ICBMs, and if they proliferate this technology to Iran and other countries as in the past, what does such activity do to current judgments about the adequacy of the current inventory of GBIs?

Dr. MILLER. I agree with Secretary Gates’ assessment that North Korea constitutes a direct threat to the United States, as it does to our South Korean and Japanese allies. North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and continued development of long-range missiles remain a primary focus of the development and deployment of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). The capabilities developed and deployed as part of the integrated BMDS protect the United States from the potential emergence of an ICBM threat from Iran or North Korea. To maintain this advantageous position, the Administration is taking steps to improve the protection of the homeland from the potential ICBM threat posed by Iran and North Korea. These steps include the continued procurement of ground-based interceptors (GBIs), the deployment of additional sensors, and upgrades to the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications system. Improvements to the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, in particular, will better protect the United States against future ICBM threats, whether from Iran, North Korea, or other regional actors.

In the future, if projections regarding Iran or North Korea change significantly, then the United States should reassess its baseline program and consider implementing some elements of our hedge posture.