The Obama Administration’s decision to reinstate 14 ground-based interceptors (GBIs)—which it reduced in its first term—is a necessary but not sufficient response to the North Korean ballistic missile threat.
North Korea’s ballistic missile testing and bellicose rhetoric prompted the Administration to augment the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program. This decision reverses one of several of the Administration’s reductions in U.S. missile defense.
The Obama Administration has cancelled some of the most promising missile defense programs, including the Multiple Kill Vehicle, Kinetic Energy Interceptor, or Airborne Laser. In 2009, Obama cancelled the Bush Administration plan to deploy missile defenses to Poland and the Czech Republic, which would have protected the U.S. and its allies from Iranian ballistic missiles.
Reinstatement of the GBIs is welcome news, but it should prompt the Administration to rethink all of its missile defense reductions.
While a focus on improving missile defense capabilities is essential, it should be balanced with future development of a comprehensive, layered missile defense program. Just last week, General Charles Jacoby, commander of Northern Command, stated at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee that U.S. capabilities should increase, because Iran is “developing its capability faster than originally assessed.” General Robert Kehler, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, also recently testified before the House Armed Services Committee that “under current levels of capability, the U.S. missile defense system is sufficient only against a limited strike.”
The President reduced funding for the missile defense program by billions since taking office, yet ballistic missile capabilities continue to expand worldwide. It is essential that the United States advance a comprehensive, layered ballistic missile defense program.
Jordan Harms is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.