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Protecting America in the New Missile Age


Memo to Senate Republicans: Delay START Vote

November 11th, 2010

Politico reports that the Senate Republican Policy Committee sent a memo to Republican Senate staffers urging them to delay voting on the new START. An excerpt from the memo:

“The fact sheet then asserts that the treaty provides ‘effective verification and inspection systems leaving Russia unable to achieve militarily significant cheating or breakout.’ Member offices should review the assessment of the treaty’s verification regime by Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Bond, available in Senate Security. That assessment is consistent with the testimony of Former Secretary of State James Baker that the New START verification program ‘does not appear as rigorous or extensive as the one that verified the numerous and diverse treaty obligations and prohibitions under START I.’

“The fact sheet then asserts that the treaty provides no constraints on deploying conventional prompt global strike capabilities. This does not answer the question of whether the Administration is committed to developing those capabilities. If the Administration were to pursue those capabilities by loading a conventional payload onto either an ICBM or SLBM, then the treaty very much limits the deployment of conventional prompt global strike capabilities. This is because every one of these weapons deployed in such a configuration counts towards the treaty’s central limits on delivery vehicles and warheads, and thus one ICBM, SLBM, or bomber may potentially have to be removed from deployed service in order to remain within the treaty’s central limits. To be fair, the Administration claims it is developing conventional prompt global strike capabilities that do not count towards the treaty’s central limits, but information on the state of those programs is very much lacking, and deployment of a converted ICBM or SLBM would be much quicker in comparison.”

Naturally, the president wants the Senate to ratify the treaty during the lame-duck session, despite Republican senators’ legitimate questions about whether the treaty undermines America’s security.

Missile Defense in GOP’s ‘Pledge to America’

September 23rd, 2010

As part of a push ahead of the November midterm elections, the House Republicans issued a “Pledge to America,” which proposes changes in government spending, homeland security, social issues, and foreign policy.

Missile defense and Iran sanctions are included in the pledge. An excerpt from the 21-page PDF document:

Fully Fund Missile Defense:There is real concern that while the threat from Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles could materialize as early as 2015, the government’s missile defense policy is not projected to cover the U.S. homeland until 2020. We will work to ensure critical funding is restored to protect the U.S. homeland and our allies from missile threats from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.

“Require Tough Enforcement of Sanctions Against Iran:The Iranian regime is a state-sponsor of terrorism, has actively worked to harm our deployed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and violates the rights and will of its own people. It has declared its determination to acquire a nuclear capability, which threatens its neighbors and the security of the United States. We will work to ensure the government aggressively and effectively implements the sanctions tools Congress has provided.”

(photo credit: Getty Images)

More Experts Comment on New START

August 3rd, 2010

Writing at National Review Online, Eric Edelman and Robert Joseph lay out a few issues the Senate must address as it deliberates ratifying the new START. For example, witnesses have testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about ambiguities that would allow conflicting interpretations of “the definition and accountability of rail-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles,” and others are concerned about problems with verification.

“Moreover, had some of the Romney critics attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on June 24, they would have heard the authors — both career government civil servants — raise all of the above-mentioned issues, as well as the modernization issues that were addressed in the report of the Strategic Posture Commission. In addition, they expressed worries about the future viability of a resilient triad of nuclear forces (ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and Bombers) under the treaty’s relatively low launcher limit — a limit that will require the U.S., but not Russia, to dismantle launchers.

“We continue to believe that these serious issues must be addressed in a thorough deliberative process — like those that accompanied INF, START I and II, and the 2002 Moscow Treaty — rather than dismissed as political partisanship.”

Edelman and Joseph call for the treaty’s negotiating record, which likely would address of the concerns. Additionally, the Senate must consider U.S. security as it makes a decision. “For instance,” the authors write, “if the rail-mobile-ICBM loophole is as minor a question as proponents claim, it can easily be resolved by either joint statements (by the U.S. and Russian governments) or a unilateral Russian statement that they agree that any new rail-mobile systems will be accountable under the treaty.”

Woolsey and Heinrichs on the Iranian Missile Threat

July 14th, 2010

Iran missile test

Several months ago, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that in as little as five years, Iran may be capable of hitting the U.S. with an intercontinental ballistic missile, with North Korea’s help.

Defense experts James Woolsey, a former director of Central Intelligence and a board member at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Rebeccah Heinrichs, an adjunct fellow at the same organization, discuss this threat in the Wall Street Journal:

“In March of that same year, Gen. Michael Maples, then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a Senate panel that Iran’s successful satellite launch ‘shows progress in mastering the technology needed to produce ICBMs.’ Earlier this year Iran successfully orbited a second satellite with an ICBM-class ballistic missile.

“Gen. Maples is right. If you can launch a satellite into orbit you are very close to being able to hit a target half way around the world. That’s why the Soviet launch of Sputnik so shocked the U.S. intelligence community in 1957. When a country is the most active state sponsor of terrorism, and its leaders routinely endorse slogans like “Death to Israel” and “Death to America,” we should take it seriously when they pursue the capabilities to make their dreams a reality.

“A December 2009 missile launch proved Iran has already obtained the ability to reach Israel. Given President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s and other Iranian leaders’ millenarian fanaticism, it would be most imprudent to rely on nuclear deterrence alone to protect us. If Tehran were to achieve a nuclear missile capability, it could hold American cities hostage—unless, that is, the U.S. builds a robust and comprehensive ballistic missile defense.”

Mitt Romney: START Could Be Obama’s Worst Foreign Policy Mistake

July 6th, 2010

Mitt Romney

Former Governor Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post. He was some tough words for the president.

“Given President Obama’s glaring domestic policy missteps, it is understandable that the public has largely been blinded to his foreign policy failings…He castigated Israel at the United Nations but was silent about Hamas having launched 7,000 rockets from the Gaza Strip. His policy of ‘engagement’ with rogue nations has been met with North Korean nuclear tests, missile launches and the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, while Iran has accelerated its nuclear program, funded terrorists and armed Hezbollah with long-range missiles. He acceded to Russia’s No. 1 foreign policy objective, the abandonment of our Europe-based missile defense program, and obtained nothing whatsoever in return.

“Despite all of this, the president’s New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New-START) with Russia could be his worst foreign policy mistake yet. The treaty as submitted to the Senate should not be ratified.”

Like other proponents of strong and comprehensive missile defense, Romney believes START limits our missile strategy, despite the administration’s assurances to the contrary.

“Its preamble links strategic defense with strategic arsenal. It explicitly forbids the United States from converting intercontinental ballistic missile silos into missile defense sites. And Russia has expressly reserved the right to walk away from the treaty if it believes that the United States has significantly increased its missile defense capability.

“Hence, to preserve the treaty’s restrictions on Russia, America must effectively get Russia’s permission for any missile defense expansion. Moscow’s vehemence over our modest plans in Eastern Europe demonstrate that such permission would be extremely unlikely.”

Why did President Obama caved to an agreement that benefits mostly Russia? Why is the reasoning behind restricting the defense of our homeland?

“The treaty also gives far more to the Russians than to the United States. As drafted, it lets Russia escape the limit on its number of strategic nuclear warheads. Loopholes and lapses — presumably carefully crafted by Moscow — provide a path to entirely avoid the advertised warhead-reduction targets. For example, rail-based ICBMs and launchers are not mentioned. Similarly, multiple nuclear warheads that are mounted on bombers are effectively not counted. Unlike past treaty restrictions, ICBMs are not prohibited from bombers. This means that Russia is free to mount a nearly unlimited number of ICBMs on bombers — including MIRVs (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles) or multiple warheads — without tripping the treaty’s limits. These omissions would be consistent with Russia’s plans for a new heavy bomber and reports of growing interest in rail-mobile ICBMs.”

Read the full article at the Washington Post.

Tough Talk on Missile Defense

June 18th, 2010

The Obama administration is talking tough on missile defense. Michele Flournoy, under secretary of Defense for Policy, and Ashton Carter, under secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics, published a piece in the Wall Street Journal, in which they stress the importance of a strong and effective missile defense program. An excerpt:

“To counter Iran’s ballistic missile program, President Obama announced a phased adaptive approach for European missile defense last September—a move unanimously welcomed by our NATO allies. The first phase begins next year with the deployment of radars and ship-based systems in southern Europe. Romania and Poland have agreed to host land-based defenses for the second and third phases.

“A similar phased adaptive approach is being applied to missile defenses in the Middle East and East Asia. While the details of the deployments and host-country arrangements will differ by region, the common thread is significant improvement in ballistic missile defense capabilities, meant to protect our deployed forces overseas and our allies and partners.”

That’s all well and good, but the Obama administration has downplayed the need for long-range missile defense. Last month, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that Iran may have the capability to hit the U.S. with an intercontinental ballistic missile, with North Korea’s help, as early as 2015. In 2020, the U.S. will have a Europe-based second shot capability to defend against Iran’s ICBM. Consequently, there will be a five-year protection gap against Iran’s ICBM. Our current plan for homeland defense are interceptors in California and Alaska

“We are also making continued progress in improving our ability to defend the U.S. homeland from ballistic missile attack,” Flournoy and Carter write. “By the fall, the U.S. will have 30 deployed ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California, with eight more missile defense silos near completion.”

Read the full article at the Wall Street Journal.

Iran’s Short-Range Missile Defense System

May 4th, 2010

Last month, sources reported that Iran had begun working on a new advanced mid-range air missile defense system called Mersad. The announcement came shortly after Iran urged Russia not to cave to international pressure over its deal to deliver S-300 missiles to the rogue state.

This week, Iran announced that it has developed a short-range missile defense system to defeat Cruise missiles. (Source)

“A new short range anti-Cruise defense system with the capability to fire 4,000 rounds of bullets per minute has been produced at the defense ministry and soon will be inaugurated,” defense minister Ahmad Vahidi said. “We are at the design and production phase of various defense systems in the short, medium and long-range categories.”

The Defense Intelligence Agency recently reported that Iran may have the capability to hit the U.S. with an intercontinental ballistic missile, with North Korea’s help, as early as 2015. In 2020, the U.S. will have a Europe-based second shot capability to defend against Iran’s ICBM. Consequently, there will be a five-year protection gap against Iran’s ICBM. Our current plan for homeland defense are interceptors in California and Alaska

Riki Ellison on ICBM Protection Gap

April 26th, 2010

Riki Ellison

The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance‘s Riki Ellison, an expert on missile defense, commented on last week’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, where witnesses testified about ballistic missile defense policies and programs in review of the Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2011.

“During these hearings, the testimony of President Barack Obama’s appointees in the Department of Defense and the Director of the Missile Defense Agency, Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, exposed five fundamental elements of the administration’s missile defense plan…”

Five elements of the Obama administration’s missile defense plan emerged from the testimony: Iran, with North Korea’s help, could hit the U.S. with an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in five years; in 10 years, the U.S. will have a Europe-based second shot capability to defend against Iran’s ICBM; the current plan for homeland defense are interceptors in California and Alaska; for at least five years, there will be a protection gap against Iran’s ICBM; and Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly suggested a few approaches to protecting the U.S. until the gap is closed.

In light of these findings, Ellison suggests the administration “move forward with urgency for a robust testing and deployment plan of the two-stage GBI on or before 2015 to ensure full protection of the U.S. homeland from Iran.”

Related post:

Ask the Experts: Riki Ellison

Ballistic Missile Defense Review Report

February 4th, 2010

Iran North Korea missiles

The Department of Defense (DOD) has released its Ballistic Missile Defense Review, conducted from March 2009 through January 2010. Download the 61-page report in PDF.

In assessing the ballistic missile threat around the world, DOD found the threat to be growing. As technology improves, missiles are becoming more accurate and farther-reaching. Ballistic missile systems are also more flexible and mobile. These trends are particularly disturbing as rogue states continue developing long-range weapons and nuclear capability. Last year, Iran test-fired the long-range Sajjil-2 missile, capable of reaching Israel and Southern Europe. Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) have a longer range than the Sajjil.

“There is some uncertainty about when and how this type of [ICBM] threat to the U.S. homeland will mature,” states the report, “but there is no uncertainty about the existence of regional threats. They are clear and present. The threat from short-range, medium-range, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs, MRBMs, and IRBMs) in regions where the United States deploys forces and maintains security relationships is growing at a particularly rapid pace.”

DOD’s recommended priorities for the U.S. include testing new capabilities before deployment, testing under realistic operational conditions, and adapting as threats shift.

DOD contends that the Ground-based Midcourse Defense presently protects the U.S. against ICBM attacks from Iran and North Korea. To maintain this “advantageous position” as the threat grows, DOD says the U.S. will:

“Maintain readiness and continue to develop existing operational capabilities at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

“Complete the second field of 14 silos at Fort Greely to hedge against the possibility that additional deployments become necessary.

“Deploy new sensors in Europe to improve cueing for missiles launched at the United States by Iran or other potential adversaries in the Middle East.

“Invest in further development of the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) for future land-based deployment as the ICBM threat matures.

“Increase investments in sensors and early-intercept kill systems to help defeat missile defense countermeasures.

“Pursue a number of new GMD system enhancements, develop next generation missile defense capabilities, and advance other hedging strategies including continued development and assessment of a two-stage ground-based interceptor.”

Some experts question the report’s conclusions. For example, the Heritage Foundation’s Baker Spring believes the threat to the homeland could well be more imminent, which leaves the U.S. vulnerable to strategic surprises and risks the lives of millions of Americans. Our solutions and strategies should be more immediate rather than future oriented.

Naval Intelligence Report on China’s Navy

November 24th, 2009

china report

As China continues building its intercontinental ballistic missile program, a threat against U.S. surface fleets, and the country’s modernizing efforts have resulted in an “increasingly sophisticated and proficient naval force,” according to the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence. Download the 51-page report (PDF), “A Chinese Navy with Modern Characteristics.”

An excerpt:

“In response to expanding national interests and revolutionary changes in warfare brought about by long-range precision weaponry, civilian leadership in Beijing began to view the navy as an increasingly critical component of China’s national security structure. To support Beijing’s objectives regarding Taiwan, to deny an adversary access to the region during times of crisis, and to protect China’s vital sea lines of communication, naval power became the key to China’s security concerns. In the late 1990s, Beijing embarked on a program to build a modern navy in a relatively short time.”

China’s improvements fall in three areas: Anti-Surface Warfare, Naval Air Defense, Force Projection.