Last week, 16 House Republicans called for including as much as $250 million for the U.S. East Coast missile defense site.
This is a step in the right direction. All the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptors that can shoot down long-range ballistic missiles are currently located on the West Coast; the East Coast is relatively vulnerable.
When the Bush Administration originally deployed the GMD system, the U.S. leadership believed that North Korean long-range ballistic missiles were more advanced than Iranian ballistic missiles. Due to the trajectory of North Korean missiles, all GMD interceptors were fielded on the West Coast.
The Obama Administration decreased the funding for the missile defense program by more than 10 percent (about $1.16 billion) in its first year in office. It cancelled the Airborne Laser, Multiple Kill Vehicle, and Kinetic Energy Interceptor; decreased the number of GMD interceptors from 44 to 30; and restructured the SM-3 Block IIB program, which would enhance U.S. protection from Iranian long-range missiles.
Both North Korea and Iran cooperate on their ballistic missile programs and are very public about the prominent role ballistic missiles play in their national security strategy. North Korea recently threatened to attack the U.S. with nuclear weapons. It takes only 33 minutes for a missile to reach the U.S. from anywhere in the world.
The Administration has recently recognized that some of its reversals were short-sighted. The Administration recently announced an increase in the number of GMD interceptors to 44. It also decided to send the sea-based X-band radar closer to North Korea. So far, the Administration has opposed the missile defense site on the East Coast, although Congress directed it to undertake an environmental impact study, the first step in determining the location of the site.
A missile defense site on the East Coast could also offer protection against nuclear-tipped shorter-range missiles that could cause an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). An EMP is a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy caused by the rapid acceleration of charged particles that cause a destruction of electrical circuits. One successful EMP attack would send the nation back to the 18th century.
The Obama Administration needs to reassess its missile defense approach. By cancelling advanced missile defense technologies, it virtually guarantees that future Presidents will be forced to play catch-up with the ever advancing ballistic missile threat. The Administration and Congress should work together to increase missile defense funding by developing and deploying a layered-comprehensive ballistic missile defense program, including space-based interceptors, that would provide the best protection against most classes of ballistic missiles.