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Secretary Robert Gates on Missile Defense

Robert Gates

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both spoke at the Atlantic Council this week to discuss factors that should be considered as NATO drafts a new “Strategic Concept,” which defines NATO’s purpose, nature, and security tasks.

Secretary Gates said Europe has underfunded defense budgets for NATO, and consequently, has undermined joint security. Specifically, he mentioned missile defense. Land invasion is no longer a pressing threat. The danger of missile attacks is more critical and “more likely to come from outside NATO’s traditional borders; and more likely to require new approaches that incorporate far more than just military power.” (Source)

On the president’s new missile defense policy: “Last year, the Obama administration announced a new plan for missile defense in Europe – a phased, adaptive approach that will give us real capabilities in a shorter period of time than the previous plan. We consider this a U.S.-funded contribution to NATO missile defense, which is critical to the collective-defense mission to protect our populations, territory, and forces.”

Iran is focusing on short- and medium-range missiles, but its long-range capability also poses a threat, whether the capability reaches fruition next year or five years from now. One of the top funding priorities is missile defense. The U.S. and our allies must prepare for long-range weapons, particularly from countries outside NATO that defy the U.N. Security Council.

In scaling back Bush-era missile defense policy, including reducing interceptors in Alaska and California, the Obama administration has left the U.S. vulnerable to long-range ballistic missiles and jeopardized systems like Ground-based Midcourse Defense. In assessing the missile threat, however, the administration seems to realize the need for more, not less, funding for these programs.

Secretary Gates acknowledged the importance of missile defense in his speech, but funding (or the lack thereof) reflects priority. We hope the administration restores missile defense funding and keeps all our options open. Read Gates’s full remarks.

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