issile defense is one of the United States’ most ambitious and most important undertakings since we officially made the decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and deploy missile defenses in 2002. The system has the capability of protecting hundreds of millions of lives both in the United States and overseas.
Throughout the past 25 years, missile defense has been perceived and considered a Republican platform position.
Now the Democratic majority in Congress is challenging this perception and reality. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a $504 billion
defense bill for 2008 that includes
more than $10 billion
for missile defense. More remarkable was the overall House vote of 397 to 27 to add an additional $200 million for
missile defense above the President George W. Bush’s 2008 budget
request. The House’s $10 billion-plus figure is around 96 percent
the Bush administration’s budget request.
Senate Armed Services Committee signed off on
$10.1 billion for missile defense for 2008
May 24. Their markup included
an additional $75 million above the
administration request to come in at 98 percent
president’s request for missile defense.
Considering that the president trimmed close to 6 percent of the missile defense request from the Department of Defense before submitting his request to Congress, this is quite a statement of support for missile defense by the Democrat-controlled House and Senate.
Most notably the Democratic majority has fully funded all of
the current and soon to be deployed U.S. systems including
10 ground-based interceptors for a possible third European missile defense
site. A bi
partisan response to ballistic missile threats as well as support for our military’s missile defense
clearly has become a matter of fact and not a consequence of partisan politics.
The 2 percent to 4 percent difference lies squarely on two future missile defense systems – the Airborne Laser and the European third site. Future costs and technical solutions are the basis of the shortfall, not politics.
The Airborne Laser, our nation’s most advanced development of a boost-phase missile defense will use chemical lasers at the speed of light from long distances to destroy missiles in their first stage of flight. Applications of this technology are much more numerous than those for missile defense alone. Why then should missile defense be held responsible as the only bill payer for this system? With future procurement of several 747s or possible wings on alert with this laser system, would this be the most cost-efficient way to spend limited missile defense dollars?
The European third site is a long- to medium-range ballistic missile defense system designed to protect Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States from Iran and other threats from the Middle East. If not the ground-based interceptors, what is the realistic alternative that would have completed end-to-end testing and can be deployed in the next five to eight years to do this mission? Should our nation allocate public funding to build the third site if there are no formal agreements with the host nations to place and deploy this specific system?
Healthy is a Congress that debates their concerns and differences of opinion rather than focuses on historical positioning of their respective parties.
The main driver for the majority and minority support for missile defense continues to be the threat and proliferation of ballistic missiles and the future perception of this threat and its advancement of technology. As numerous congressional testimonies and the National Intelligence Estimate state, the U.S. homeland most likely will face an ICBM threat from Iran and North Korea before 2015.
We, as a nation and a Congress, have moved to accept that we cannot rely on offensive retaliation, pre-emptive military action or nonproliferation arms control agreements to stop the current proliferation of ballistic missiles and their capability to carry weapons of mass destruction.
Current North Korean missile tests and Iranian developments are already threatening our deployed forces, allies and regional stability. The nature of these clandestine regimes is such that we cannot be certain about their progress and intention, which makes the future use of current developments a concern. North Korea and Iran continue to test fire missiles. Non-state actors such as Hezbollah continue to use short-range rockets for terrorism. More and more countries are attaining large numbers of ballistic missiles. Missile defense helps stabilize volatile regions and allows additional solutions to come forward as was shown with North Korea.
The only scenario worse than approaching an unknown future is a scenario that finds our nation unprepared, unprotected and vulnerable to coercion.
Most importantly, our nation needs to build, demonstrate and deploy missile defense so that those countries and entities will be dissuaded not to continue to build, develop and use ballistic missiles.
The new Democratic-controlled Congress has proved recently to have put aside partisan politics in favor of supporting missile defense. The Democrats are much closer than
you think on this historically contentious issue.
M. Ellison is president and founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance on Alexandria, Va.