How the Obama Administration Changed Our Missile Defense Strategy

By Michaela Dodge | December 31, 2015 | 12:30pm EST
Russian troops are seen near truck-mounted Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles as they rehearse for the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square, at a training field in the town of Alabino outside Moscow, Tuesday, March 18, 2008. (AP Photo)

Recently the Russian strategic missile forces’ commander Col. Gen. Sergei Karakayev said Russia’s new missiles will have the capability to neutralize any future U.S. missile defense system.

For now, Karakayev is right – not because the missiles are invincible – but because the Obama administration is deliberately limiting the United States’ ballistic missile defense program.

This must change.

Background on U.S. Missile Defense Strategy

After the U.S. withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Treaty in 2002, the United States focused on developing a layered ballistic missile defense system. The Bush administration concentrated on quick deployment of the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system for the protection of U.S. homeland. This system is made up of ground based missiles and radars, which can incept incoming missiles. To augment the protection within the United States, the Bush administration planned on deploying a radar to the Czech Republic with two-stage ground-based midcourse defense interceptors in Poland.

In order to address intermediate, and shot-range ballistic missile threats, the Bush administration developed and deployed Aegis ship-based missile defense system, the Theatre High Altitude Area Defense System, and the Patriot system.

Change of Plans Under Obama

The U.S. missile defense plans changed, however, under the Obama administration. Our current administration decided to pursue a European Phased Adaptive Approach, a modified missile defense plan emphasizing medium-range ballistic missile threat, instead of putting a radar and two-stage ground-based interceptors in Europe.

The Obama administration was to augment protection of the U.S. homeland in the 2020 timeframe. But the Obama administration decided to cancel that aspect of the plan and focus on short- and medium-range missile defense protection for the European allies (Russia happened to object to this part of the plan most).

The United States therefore is deliberately pursuing a missile defense program to be able to intercept only a handful of incoming ballistic missiles of first, not as technologically advanced, generations.

Given the spread of ballistic missiles – their increasing sophistication, range, and lethality – it is time to put U.S. missile defense policy on a sound track.

Additionally, Russia’s aggressive behavior and a desire to use its nuclear and ballistic missile leverage to blackmail the U.S. and its allies, the United States should plan in a comprehensive-layered ballistic missile defense system capable of shooting down all ballistic missiles.

To do so, the United States will have to pursue a space-based ballistic missile defense layer as well as continue to work on future technologies, for example directed energy.

Michaela Dodge specializes in missile defense, nuclear weapons modernization and arms control as policy analyst for defense and strategic policy in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.

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