Missile Defense Threats
The United States, its deployed forces, and its friends and allies remain vulnerable to missile strikes. Around 30 states have short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) and many possess longer-range ballistic missiles - with some acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD). An expanding number of unstable and hostile state and non-state actors are developing and proliferating missiles and their associated technology.
The danger seems unlikely to subside. As the Rumsfeld Commission noted, even rudimentary SRBMs can threaten, blackmail, and coerce - particularly if married with WMD warheads. Missiles are relatively inexpensive weapons and proliferation networks allow buyers to assemble arsenals cheaply rather than undergo the costly process of developing indigenous capabilities. The recent actions of two rogue states, Iran and North Korea, suggest both wish to field intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and sell their technology to others.
While rogue states and terrorist organizations are certainly a concern, the U.S. also faces a strategic threat from Russia and China. Russia continues to upgrade its formidable strategic missile arsenal; the military recently deployed the Topol-M ICBM and Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) systems, both capable of carrying sophisticated multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads. Many foresee China as a future challenge to the U.S. and its allies in Asia. While its strategic arsenal is much smaller than Russia's, the Chinese still possess at least 30 ICBMs capable of striking the U.S. China is following Russia's lead in developing and deploying MIRV warhead technology and upgrading its (SLBM) capabilities. China's military is also transforming the strategic arsenal to improve its mobility and launch time capabilities.
Without credible defenses, the United States relies mostly on diplomacy, deterrence and preemption to counter the missile challenge. Devastating retaliatory capabilities are supposed to deter attacks with preemptive strikes a last-resort option if conventional deterrence appears likely to fail. Missile defense affords a critical third option when preemption is perilous and deterrence fails.
Missile defense offers insurance against those unfazed by deterrence. We cannot count on states behaving with the rationality that deterrence theory leads us to expect. Non-states may be more of challenge to the logic of deterrence because they are often ideologically motivated and lack "return addresses" for the U.S. to hold at stake. Neither preemption nor deterrence will work against, say, a terrorist group firing an SRBM from a container ship before scuttling the vessel.
Adequate defenses are a moral imperative for a government charged with protecting the lives of its citizens. Citizens expect their leaders to use any available means to reduce the nation?s vulnerability to a dangerous and growing threat. Our political leadership risks abdicating its most fundamental duty if it chooses to forgo dedicated investment in deploying a robust, layered missile defense system - a goal completely within technological and monetary reach.
Missile Defense Threats
- "Current Developments in Russia's Ballistic Missile Defense," Jana Honkova, April 15, 2013
- "Missile Defenses in Turkey," James Fifield, February 28, 2013
- "Does North Korea’s Missile Launch Matter?," Karen Montague, December 13, 2012
- "China's ASAT & Missile Defense Programs - A Review of Programs, Plans, and Motivations," February 19, 2012
- "Why Crisis Footing With U.S. Serves Iran's Interests," Mr. Eric Sterner, January 18, 2012
- "A Briefing on Global Missile Threats and the Need for Robust Missile Defense," April 28, 2010
- "Iranian Missiles and U.S. Defenses," Jeff Kueter, December 16, 2009
- "Dragon in Sheep's Clothing?," Mr. Eric Sterner, November 23, 2009
- "Assessing Missile Threats," July 7, 2009
- "North Korea on the Brink," James Mazol, June 1, 2009
- "Space Launch or Missile Test?: North Korea?s Intentions in Space," Jeff Kueter and James Mazol, March 1, 2009
- "Persia in Space: Implications for U.S. National Security," James Mazol, February 1, 2009
- "Facing a Long-Ignored Problem: Reviving America's Nuclear Deterrence - remarks by the Honorable Jon Kyl," September 15, 2008
- "Recent Success in U.S. Missile-Defense Testing Can Counter the Iranian Nuclear Missile Breakout," Robert Jastrow and Jeff Kueter, March 1, 2006
- "Nuclear Games: Examining Stability and Defenses in a Proliferated World," H. Baker Spring, January 20, 2006
- "Ballistic Missile Defense in an Ideal World," Dr. Lowell Wood, July 13, 2005
- "Build Missile Defense Before It's Too Late," Jeff Kueter, The Boston Globe, March 29, 2005
- "What is the Meaning of the Russian Wonder Weapon?," Robert Jastrow and Jeff Kueter, May 1, 2004
- "Defending America from Offshore Missile Attack," Ambassador Henry Cooper, October 1, 2002
- "Ballistic Missiles: Threat and Response," Richard Garwin and Brigadier General Simon P. Worden (Ret.), May 12, 1999