Unless President Obama and Congress reach an agreement over the
next few weeks, deep automatic cuts on defense spending to the tune
of $55 billion next year alone will kick in starting in early 2013.
One expensive Pentagon boondoggle that should be canceled in these
times of tight budgets is the NATO missile defense program.
Not only would canceling this program save billions, it would be
strategically sensible, bring about greater international
cooperation on security issues, and free up more than 30 Navy ships
to address actual military threats around the globe.
According to the current missile-defense plan, the United States,
working with NATO, would ramp up the deployment of a mix of
increasingly sophisticated sea- and land-based missile interceptors
around Europe in an attempt to guard against any possible future
Iranian nuclear missiles. That sounds good, but the problem is that
an enemy bent on delivering a nuclear payload could easily defeat
the system by using decoy warheads, thereby swamping the radars and
other sensors with fake signals.
In fact, two recent government-sponsored scientific studies have
shown that the missile defense system being planned to protect the
US and Europe is fundamentally flawed and will not work under real
combat conditions. As Philip Coyle, who stepped down as associate
director for national security and international affairs in the
Obama administrations Office of Science and Technology Policy
recently put it, the program is chasing scientific dead ends,
unworkable concepts and a flawed overall architecture.
Besides saving about $8 billion per year, there would be numerous
other collateral benefits to canceling this flawed program. Missile
defense has been the main irritant in recent US-Russia relations.
Shelving it could bring about greater Russian cooperation on a host
of important global security issues like Syria, Iran, space and
nuclear security, the American strategic pivot to the Pacific, and
the emerging issues over the future of the Arctic.
Russian perceptions of the missile defense system's future
ability to upset the balance of nuclear arms agreed to in the New
START treaty may also be a roadblock to further nuclear arms
reductions. And if the US had to preserve a larger nuclear deterrent
just to keep up with Russian numbers this would be another large
waste of money brought about by the flawed missile defense plan.
And as the missile defense program undergoes mission creep beyond
just Europe, into the Pacific and Middle East, it is raising
tensions in those geopolitical spheres also. Indeed, the bipartisan
Strategic Posture Commission has pointed out that China may already
be increasing the size of its ICBM [Intercontinental Ballistic
Missile] force in response to its assessment of the U.S. missile
Such stockpile increases will likely compel India and, in turn,
Pakistan to also ramp up their nuclear weapon numbers. Any US policy
that adds nuclear tinder to South Asia will certainly come back to
haunt Washington down the road.
Of course, Washington shouldn't cancel missile defense just to
please Russia or China. It should be canceled because the system is
fundamentally flawed and ridiculously expensive. Shutting it down
would be in Americas fiscal and security interests.
Doing so would also free up the more than 30 Navy ships that are
slated to become floating launchpads for missile defense