The House of Representatives voted 416–1 this week to approve construction of a third U.S. missile defense site.
The Heritage Foundation has advocated a missile defense site on the East Coast for years. Supporters of a third site maintain that completion of the project would increase American security in the face of a ballistic missile attack.
After a series of blows to America’s missile defense systems under the Obama administration, an opportunity for redemption emerged earlier this year. In January, the Department of Defense announced that it will begin investigating potential missile defense sites for the East Coast.
According to the current plans, these sites will house ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) systems, which function as a defense against intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile attacks. The Pentagon, however, should also look at other options for the East Coast, including a modified Aegis sea-based missile defense system.
Currently, the West Coast hosts two GMD sites: one in Alaska and one in California. These sites provide a defense against the North Korean threat. However, according to the 2014 Annual Threat Assessment, Iran actively seeks to obtain ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the U.S. Earlier this year, Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. warned that “tangible evidence of North Korean and Iranian ambitions confirms that a limited ballistic missile threat to the homeland has matured from a theoretical to a practical consideration.”
Obama cancelled upgrades to earlier Standard Missile 3 models, which would have countered long-range ballistic missiles. In an era of increasing missile threats, U.S. national security cannot afford to leave gaps in its missile defense. Due to the extreme complexity involved in intercepting an incoming missile, multiple missile defense sites are pivotal in increasing the likelihood of a successful interception.
In May 2013, Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, stated: “I see the demand for missile defense from the combatant commanders as increasing in terms of capacity required.”
Iran has no reservations in threatening to kill millions of Americans. The federal government has a responsibility to protect and defend its citizens. Missile defense sites on the East Coast provide American leaders with an opportunity to fulfill these commitments. Leaders in the House of Representatives recognize its importance. Senators should follow.
Rebecca Robison is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.