Building out Missile Defense Capabilities: Working the US-Allied Relationship


2017-12-15 By Richard Weitz

One problem with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810) signed by President Trump on Tuesday is that the costs of defending foreign countries from missile threats is disproportionately paid for by American tax payers.

To sustain funding for the U.S. nuclear modernization, revitalization of the U.S. ground forces, expansion of the full F-35 fleet, and the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMDS) system, it is important to displace more of the costs of protecting foreign countries from missile threats onto those countries themselves.

These states need to spend more on missile defense and cooperate more closely in networking their regional systems

This would allow more of American taxpayer dollars to go to protecting the U.S. homeland.

In Europe, President Trump is but the latest U.S. leader who has decried the persistent imbalance in transatlantic defense spending. Having the United States account for some three-fourths of all NATO military expenditures undermines the long-term foundations of the alliance.

NATO countries need to follow the Polish example and spend more on their national missile defenses.

Poland is building one of the best integrated air and missile defense system in the world through its so-called Wisla program, including by spending billions of dollars on the U.S.-made Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System and U.S. Patriot air-and-missile defense interceptors.

In the future, Poland and Romania should, along with other NATO allies, pay a greater share of the Aegis Ashore SM-3 missile batteries that the United States has been building on their territories as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach to Missile Defense that guided the Obama administration’s approach.
In Asia, South Korea and Japan need to invest more in their national defense to enable the United States to spend more on protecting its own homeland. If North Korean leaders believe that they can threaten the U.S. homeland with impunity, Pyongyang will escalate its provocations against Japan and South Korea.

For example, Japan and South Korea can rapidly enhance their defenses against North Korean missiles at modest cost by funding a new short-range hypersonic interceptor with already available unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

This proposed “High-Altitude Long-Endurance Boost-Phase Intercept Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (HALE BPI/UAV)” could patrol the airspace off the Korean Peninsula and destroy North Korean missiles soon after their launch.

South Korea and Japan could easily share the modest costs of fielding and maintaining national or joint networks of these systems.

Much of the technology for this system is already available or could be developed within a few years.

Missile defense experts have already developed detailed proposals for making the concept practical. Like the GMDSthe HALE BPI/UAV would destroy targets through kinetic energy generated by the force of a high-speed collision rather than through an exploding warhead.

Moving beyond their modest and infrequent joint missile defense exercises, Japan and South Korea can pool resources to develop new missile defense systems. They can draw on technologies from missile tracking and interception already under available or under development. Their enhanced cooperation would, by reducing the U.S. burden, make the U.S. forward presence more sustainable..

Middle Eastern partners that have also benefited from missile defense technologies developed and funded by American taxpayers.

Israel has received substantial research, development, and deployment subsidies, while Arab partners have been able to buy turn-key defense systems developed thanks to generous U.S. funding.

U.S. allies and friends should also assume a greater share of the costs of researching and developing next-generation missile-defense technologies.

These could include laser-based weapons suitable for boost-phase attacks on nearby missiles or enhanced use of F-35 sensors and missiles for close-proximity missile interceptions.

More F-35s would enhance the performance and networking capacity of the air and missile defense networks of Europeans, Asians, and Arabs facing the Russian-provided planes of potential regional troublemakers.

These systems would support other types of missile interceptors already deployed or under development by U.S. allies and partners for their national defense by adding another layer to the global missile defense architecture.

Furthermore, they would allow the United States to rebalance funding to increase the size and improve the performance of the Ground-Based Interceptors in Alaska and California.

For example, the Pentagon wants to start building additional silos at Fort Greely in Alaska, redesign the kill vehicle that rams into incoming warheads, deploy a new two-stage booster, and accelerate other key GMDS components.

Besides this long-term need to rebalance the defense burden between the United States and its allies, and between U.S. regional and homeland missile defense, the immediate priority is to rescind the 2011 2011 Budget Control Act that caps federal spending through mandatory sequestration.

Although the FY2018 NDAA would provide $700 billion for defense spending, the 2011 law restricts actual 2018 defense spending to $550 billion.

As Trump said when signing the NDAA, Congress needs to “finish the job” and end the crazy sequestration requirement for automatic, across-the-board spending cuts regardless of strategic logic or national priorities.

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Promoting Better Missile Defense Burden Sharing