The Heritage Foundation
Protecting America in the New Missile Age


James Carafano: START Limits Comprehensive Missile Defense

December 15th, 2010

In a web memo published last month at Heritage, James Carafano responded to Vice President Joe Biden’s Wall Street Journal article in which he asserts that our current missile defense plans are more than adequate. Our missile defense should be comprehensive, and Carafano said START would limit our ability to do that. An excerpt:

From Defending the West to Modest Protection for Europe

“Upon entering office, President Obama slashed the number of land-based interceptors planned to protect the U.S. homeland from North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles by 44 percent. The cuts included scrapping the ‘third site’ ballistic missile defense plan to defend the United States and U.S. allies against the threat of long- and medium-range ballistic missiles from Iran. These installations were to be completed by 2013. In its stead the White House elected to focus on more limited regional missile defense.

“In conjunction with a plan approved by NATO at the recent Lisbon summit, Obama has sketched out what the Administration hopes will lead to the development of the Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense system, the Medium Extended Air Defense System (a U.S., German, and Italian joint program), and the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense in Europe.

“Obama dubbed his ‘new’ plan for Europe the Phased Adaptive Approach. The four-phase program is intended to be the cornerstone of NATO’s ballistic missile defense initiative. Under Phase I (which the White House hopes to begin in 2011), U.S. Aegis ships with SM-3 interceptors will deploy to the Mediterranean with sea- and forward-based sensors stationed in southern Europe. In Phases II (2015), III (2018), and IV (2020) more interceptors will be deployed, both on Aegis ships and ground platforms.

“In his effort to cheerlead for New START, Vice President Biden neglected to mention the limitations of this approach. Even if the Obama plan is implemented on schedule and at cost (questionable assumptions), parts of Europe will remain vulnerable to long-range Iranian threats until 2020. The program also makes no specific, sustained investment to exploit the full range of sea-based and SM-3 technology. Furthermore, land-based SM-3 is a dramatically different capability from the current sea-based SM-3. It has yet to be flown. The Missile Defense Agency is already two years behind the deployment plans.”

Read the full web memo at Heritage.

At The Foundry, Owen Graham presents an alternative to START.

“The administration acts as if the choice is between New START or nothing,” Graham writes. “This assumption is fallacious. Some of the treaty’s supporters maintain that criticism of New START stems from partisanship alone and that critics are simply opposed to arms control. Such assumptions are also wrong. The problems with New START are substantive.”

An alternative path to START begins from a position of strength. For example, a START alternative would not be tied to nuclear disarmament. Our response to a rogue state developing a nuclear weapon shouldn’t be nuclear disarmament, considering the treaty “imposes no constraints on these countries.” Read Graham’s full post at The Foundry.

Peter Brookes on New Missile Shield Plan

October 27th, 2009

Peter BrookesLast week, Vice President Joe Biden visited Poland and the Czech Republic, the first such visit to the region by a high-level official since the President Barack Obama dropped plans to deploy missile defense shields to those countries. The Heritage Foundation‘s Peter Brookes commented on the new missile defense shield plan proposed by the administration.

“In pulling the plug on the Bush missile-defense plan in Eastern Europe last month,” Brookes writes in the New York Post, “the White House came up with a new architecture based on a new evaluation of existing intelligence on the Iranian ballistic-missile threat…The Pentagon now insists Iran is moving faster on its short- and medium-range ballistic-missile programs than on its long-range ICBM effort, against which the Czech and Polish sites were aimed. (Of course, many experts think progress in one missile program supports another.)”

The new plan may protect Europe, but what about the Iranian threat to the U.S. and Israel? Land-based SM-3 missiles, designed to protect us and our ally, are in development. The target date for completion is 2020, but Iran could have an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015.

“[T]he Obama administration thinks that if the Iranian ICBM comes online before the land-based SM-3s are developed and in place, the West Coast, Bush-era missile-defense sites give us some breathing room…Not really.”

Brookes notes that the “West Coast” system was created to protect us from North Korea, not Iran. Sites that would protect us from Iran (in Alaska and California) may not be adequate, especially since the administration reduced interceptors at those sites.

“That means there’s a gap in our defenses against an Iranian ICBM strike until the land-based SM-3s are operational, which, by the way, will almost certainly face funding and engineering-development challenges.”

Other problems with the new plan are cost, efficiency, and concerns that Russia will once again “negotiate” with the U.S. to curb development of another weapon.

“It’s…a good time to remind ourselves that the purpose of defense is to be technologically ahead of the threat, not behind it — which is where we’ll be if we’re not careful,” Brookes writes.

Read the full article at the New York Post.

Joe Biden Visits Central Europe

October 21st, 2009

It’s Vice President Joe Biden’s turn to visit Europe and assure allies we didn’t abandoned them when we dropped plans to deploy missile shields, which would have helped defend the region from Iranian attacks.

Supporters of strong and comprehensive missile defense saw the move as an attempt to placate Russia, notoriously hard to please. President Barack Obama’s decision ostensibly was based on new intelligence showing Iran’s shorter-range rockets to be a greater threat than its long-range rockets.

Biden’s three-day trip is the first such visit to the Poland-Czech Republic region by a high-level official since the plans were dropped. Tony Blinken, Biden’s national security advisor, said Biden will discuss America’s “strong commitment to missile defense and to a better system, a more effective system, than the one we had originally proposed.”

The vice president will attempt to assure the two countries that the new missile defense system is better than the previous one. Will he also try to convince them the U.S. is not trying to appease the former Soviet Union? Although the administration denies the accusation, it looks like appeasement. Russia considered the shields a threat, and now the shields won’t happen. The U.S. wanted Russia to issue tougher sanctions against Iran, and Russia so far has refused. The U.S. has received nothing in the appeasement deal, and we appear weak.

We doubt Biden will say anything to change that perception.

(Source: ABC News)

Despite Biden’s Speech, Missile Deal Still in Doubt

February 13th, 2009

Despite Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Europe last week, and Secretary of State Clinton’s meeting with the Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, this week, we still don’t know whether this Administration will honor U.S. agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic to deploy elements of a U.S. missile defense shield in Europe (known as the ‘third site’ deployment).

Obama has successfully–and probably deliberately–provided enough ambiguity to make a decision either way. On the one hand, he has pledged to field defenses against WMD attacks but on the other he has implied that ballistic missile defense programs are either ineffective, too costly, or both.

The international press is now speculating that the U.S. will abandon the third site deal, and do a deal with Russia instead. The Administration has said that it is keen to put relations with Russia on a more positive footing than President Bush.

However, the Administration is making a number of miscalculations if it intends to abandon the third site deal in a rapprochement with Moscow. Firstly, the third site deployment is a win-win for national and global security, as it will defend against ballistic missile attack from rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea. Secondly, it is a win-win for American diplomacy, having been backed by the 26-nation NATO Alliance on two separate occasions. To abandon the deployment now makes no sense politically or strategically.

It is wrong to claim that ground-based missile defenses are unproven or unworkable. On December 5 2008, the Missile Defense Agency performed a successful intercept of an incoming ballistic missile. On September 28, 2007, the U.S. missile defense system also destroyed the mock warhead of a long-range missile. As General Trey Obering, former director of the Missile Defense Agency, states in Heritage’s “33 Minutes” documentary, we are not only now able to hit a bullet with a bullet, but can also hit a spot on a bullet with a bullet.

Finally, it makes no sense to throw away close and proven allies in Europe, in favor of Russia. Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August last year, followed by its illegal annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia demonstrates its unpredictability on the world stage. It also willfully turned off Europe’s gas supplies this past winter, leaving millions of Europeans out in the cold.

While the Administration should certainly try to rebuild relations with Russia, it should not abandon its security interests or its long-standing allies in the process.

Joe Biden Says U.S. Wants Missile Shields in Poland

February 12th, 2009

Joe BidenLast Saturday at a conference in Munich, Germany, Vice President Joseph Biden said the U.S. will continue its plans to install missile defense shields in Poland, despite Russia’s disapproval. (Source)

“We will continue to develop missile defenses to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven and it is cost-effective, using Iran’s space breakthrough – which saw the country placing a domestically-built satellite into orbit – as a pretext for Washington’s plans.”

Russia threatened to install missiles on the Polish border in retaliation, but Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei B. Ivanov told conference attendees that his country would not deploy the missiles if we “reviewed” our plans.

Biden also said the U.S. will go on the offensive if Iran continues its nuclear weapon development and terrorist sponsorship. The U.S. ostensibly needs Russia’s support to stop rogue states like Iran and North Korea.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a message similar to Biden’s. She said the U.S. may “reconsider” plans to build missile defense shields in Central Europe if Iran ceased its nuclear program.

“If we’re able to see a change of behavior on the part of the Iranians with respect to what we believe to be their pursuit of nuclear weapons, then you know, we will reconsider where we stand. But we are a long, long way from seeing such evidence of any behavior change.” (Source)