Trump’s Call for Creating an Impregnable Missile Shield Sparks Immediate Debate (excerpt)
(Source: The Center for Public Integrity; issued Jan 18, 2019)
By Patrick Malone and Zachary Fryer-Biggs
President Donald Trump on Jan. 17 unveiled an expansive new military doctrine that calls for the country to be able to block all enemy missiles, a challenge that many experts say exceeds what’s technologically feasible or affordable and also upends longstanding policy about keeping missile defense limited to avoid setting off a new arms race.

In a speech capping a lengthy policy review by his aides, Trump declared that “our goal is simple, to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States, anywhere, anytime, anyplace.”

That’s a much more ambitious task than the Pentagon’s existing missile defense mission to detect and destroy a relatively small volley of ballistic missiles launched by accident or deliberately from countries like Iran or North Korea. That mission has already consumed over $200 billion and had only limited success, producing several dozen missile interceptors that have worked half the time in major tests.

Trump’s demand in theory would require the construction of a much more robust and costly missile defense system capable of completely blocking an attack by thousands of Russian and Chinese missiles – not just those deployed by smaller powers. And officials said the new program will be aimed at developing technology to defeat not just ballistic missiles launched on intercontinental trajectories, but also cruise missiles and hypersonic missiles, which could be launched from land, sea, and air to reach the United States from many directions.

No one thinks this is possible now, and some experts say it will never be. Aides said the speech, which Trump delivered from a windowless Pentagon auditorium to a polite audience of senior military officers and top civilian appointees, was meant to kick off years of increased spending and more earnest work, not presage the imminent deployment of a workable system.

“We’re not talking about going straight from the missile defense review report to an objective system,” Michael Griffin, the Pentagon’s research chief, told reporters at a briefing after Trump’s speech. Griffin, who was the chief scientist in President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative – also aimed at building a comprehensive missile defense – explained that “you’ll start to see” new experiments, not new weapons, at the outset. (end of excerpt)


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