What do welfare reform and missile defense have in common? Both were gutted under the Obama Administration, says Senator Jim DeMint, who will become Heritage’s president in April.
Senator DeMint is correct. President Obama has drastically decreased the funding for the missile defense program since he took office and cut a number of important programs.
In a shameful manner, Obama cancelled plans to deploy a missile defense site in Poland and an X-band radar site in the Czech Republic when he called the Poles on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion. The Obama Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2010 request was $1.6 billion less than the previous Administration recommended.
Obama cancelled some of the most promising missile defense programs, like the Multiple Kill Vehicle, the Airborne Laser, and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor. These programs were designed to either improve the capability of the existing systems or to provide for boost phase intercept options. The boost phase of a ballistic missile flight is when a missile is the most vulnerable, because it is slow and has not deployed its decoys yet. Only several minutes long, it is also the most challenging phase for the intercept.
The Administration has also not done anything to advance the U.S. space-based missile defense program, which is the best way to protect the country, forward-deployed troops, and allies against the widest spectrum of threats.
The Administration also negotiated the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which links ballistic missiles and strategic offensive arms and limits missile defenses. The Russians have consistently maintained that this allows them to withdraw from the treaty if the U.S. expands its ballistic missile defense capabilities. Russia also threatened to use nuclear weapons preemptively on U.S. European allies if the Administration proceeds with deployments of the later stages of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), its plan for the protection of Europe and eventually the U.S.
In November 2011, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that the EPAA will go away entirely if the sequestration mandated by the Budget Control Act is allowed to take place. If this happens, the Administration will be able to placate the Russians while blaming the defense cuts for reductions to the missile defense program. Such a step would be ill-advised. The threat of a ballistic missile attack is growing, and more than 30 countries possess technologies to make them. North Korea and Iran are openly hostile to U.S. interests. The U.S. must develop a comprehensive layered missile-defense system, including space-based, to protect itself and its allies from this threat.