James Woolsey, former director of Central Intelligence, and Rebaccah Heinrichs, a former manager of the House Bipartisan Missile Defense Caucus published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal vividly illustrating the threat posed by Iran’s weapons program and the need for a robust U.S. missile defense system. The authors note that Iran is capable of deploying an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) by 2015, which is a scary fact for a country whose leader likes to proclaim “death to Israel.”
What is so discouraging about this news is that it really isn’t news at all. Back in 2007, John C. Rood, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation testified that it was likely that Iran could have an ICBM as early as 2015. Nevertheless, the current Administration has sought to cut back the missile defense program, providing nearly $1 billion less in the FY 2011 budget than President Bush provided in his last year in office. Moreover, they have reduced the number of ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California from the original plan of 44 down to 30.
As this Administration continues to provide less than robust support for the U.S. missile defense program, it is leaving the nation vulnerable. With the current “phased adaptive approach” for missile defense, there is a gap of a few years in which Iran can reach the U.S. with its ballistic missiles, but the U.S. will not have the full capabilities of its system to prevent against such an attack. Given the latest round of success in missile defense testing, it is time the Administration invested more heavily in this system.
What is even more concerning is that this Administration is committed to ratifying a treaty (New START) that, despite all of their statements claiming otherwise, will limit our missile defense capabilities. There is an explicit limitation in Article V of the treaty that prevents the conversion of ICBM silos into missile defense launchers. Director of the Missile Defense Agency, Gen. O’Reilly, has testified that such a stipulation does not impede our current missile plans and therefore isn’t a big deal. Nevertheless, who is to say that such an option may not be necessary down the road? It is a clearly viable alternative within the missile defense architecture, yet upon ratification of this treaty it will be eliminated for the next 10 years.
Missile defense is not—and therefore should not be treated as—an option. It doesn’t make sense to put locks on all the windows of your house but leave the door wide open. Without a missile defense system, the U.S.’s door is wide open to attack. It’s time we demanded nothing less than a robust missile defense system.
Ricky Trotman is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm