After the Obama Administration’s repeated delays of projects that would enhance the United States’ ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, the Department of Defense (DOD) released a statement announcing that they would begin an environmental impact study of four locations on the effect of installing a BMD site on the East Coast.
This installation cannot happen soon enough. While the West Coast possesses the capability to defend itself against long-range ballistic missile attack, the East Coast remains comparatively less protected. With ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) systems, a type of long-range BMD, at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, the West Coast maintains a higher level of security than the East Coast. Currently, there is no comparable BMD system on the East Coast. News headlines on a seemingly weekly basis announce the advancement of nations such as North Korea, Iran, Russia, or China in their ballistic missile programs. This particular attention to ballistic missiles is no coincidence: These nations are aware of our inadequate defense mechanisms in the face of such an attack.
The DOD press release brings a measure of relief. However, this announcement fails to guarantee construction of a new missile site; it merely authorizes an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of four locations: Camp Ravenna, Ohio; Fort Custer, Michigan; Fort Drum, New York; and Portsmouth SERE Training Area, Maine (Rangeley). Speedy authorization for construction and commencement of this project is vital to the security of the American people.
While an additional missile defense site on the East Coast with proper cueing and tracking would substantially increase our nation’s security, Congress should also evaluate the utility of Aegis BMD systems. For optimal protection, the United States requires a layered defense system. In the event of an incoming missile, if an interceptor were to fail to strike down an enemy attack, the Aegis system would give the U.S. an additional opportunity to destroy the threat.
It takes only 33 minutes or less for a missile launched from anywhere in the world to reach the United Sates. Congress should not wait any longer to authorize the construction of a missile defense site on the East Coast or to approve funding for the improvement of Aegis BMD systems.
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.