House Homeland Security Chair: 'This Was an Invasion'; Biden's Military Advisers 'Should Be Fired'

Susan Jones | February 7, 2023 | 7:13am EST
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Gen. Glen VanHerck is the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Northern Command (Photo: Screen capture)
Gen. Glen VanHerck is the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Northern Command (Photo: Screen capture)

( - "This was an invasion of the United States sovereign territory, our space, by a Chinese spy balloon," Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) told Fox News Monday night.

"The general officers who advised that that thing not be shot down should be fired. That's step one to future competing with China. Fire whoever advised him (Biden) not to shoot it down."

Green is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

President Biden told reporters again on Monday, "It was always my position" to shoot down the balloon:

"Once it came… into the United States from Canada, I told the Defense Department I wanted to shoot it down as soon as it was appropriate. They concluded — they concluded we should not shoot it down over land, it was not a serious threat, and we should wait until it got across the water."

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley are Biden's top military advisers. Gen. Glen VanHerck is the head of NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command.

Rep. Green said his committee will "dig into who made this decision."

Decision-making process explained

At a press briefing on Monday, VanHerck said concerns about the balloon's size and its undetermined payload made a shootdown inadvisable:

"So the balloon assessment was up to 200 feet tall for the actual balloon. The payload itself, I would categorize that as a jet airliner type of size, maybe a regional jet such as a ERJ or something like that. Probably weighed in access of a couple thousand pounds.

"So I would -- from a safety standpoint, picture yourself with large debris weighing hundreds if not thousands of pounds falling out of the sky. That's really what we're kind of talking about.

"So glass off of solar panels, potentially hazardous material, such as material that is required for batteries to operate in such an environment as this and even the potential for explosives to detonate and destroy the balloon that -- that could have been present.

"So I think that would give you an idea of the perspective of the balloon and the decision-making process along the way."

In response to a later question, VanHerck said he "can't confirm" whether the balloon carried explosives or not.

"Anytime you down something like this, we make an assumption that that potential exists. We did not associate the potential of having explosives with a threat to dropping weapons, those kinds of things, but out of a precaution, abundance of safety for not only our military people and the public, we have to make assumptions such as that."

As for the balloon's spy capabilities, VanHerck said, "We did not assess that it presented a significant collection hazard beyond what already exists in actionable technical means from the Chinese.

"And with that said, you always have to balance that with the intel gain opportunity.

"And so there was a potential opportunity for us to collect intel where we had gaps on prior balloons, and so I would defer to the intel community, but this gave us the opportunity to assess what they were actually doing, what kind of capabilities existed on the balloon, what kind of transmission capabilities existed, and I think you'll see in the future that the -- that time frame was well worth it's value to collect."

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