Mixed Messages on Trump’s Missile Defense Review
(Source: Federation of American Scientists; posted on Jan.17, 2019)

By Matt Korda and Hans M. Kristensen
President Trump personally released the long-overdue Missile Defense Review (MDR) today, and despite the document’s assertion that “Missile Defenses are Stabilizing,” the MDR promotes a posture that is anything but.

Firstly, during his presentation, Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan falsely asserted that the MDR is consistent with the priorities of the 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS). The NSS’ missile defense section notes that “Enhanced missile defense is not intended to undermine strategic stability or disrupt longstanding strategic relationships with Russia or China.” (p.8)

During Shanahan’s and President Trump’s speeches, however, they made it clear that the United States will seek to detect and destroy “any type of target,” “anywhere, anytime, anyplace,” either “before or after launch.” Coupled with numerous references to Russia’s and China’s evolving missile arsenals and advancements in hypersonic technology, this kind of rhetoric is wholly inconsistent with the MDR’s description of missile defense being directed solely against “rogue states.” It is also inconsistent with the more measured language of the National Security Strategy.

Secondly, the MDR clearly states that the United States “will not accept any limitation or constraint on the development or deployment of missile defense capabilities needed to protect the homeland against rogue missile threats.” This is precisely what concerns Russia and China, who fear a future in which unconstrained and technologically advanced US missile defenses will eventually be capable of disrupting their strategic retaliatory capability and could be used to support an offensive war-fighting posture.


Overall, the Trump Administration’s Missile Defense Review offers up a gamut of expensive, ineffective, and destabilizing solutions to problems that missile defense simply cannot solve. The scope of US missile defense should be limited to dealing with errant threats—such as an accidental or limited missile launch—and should not be intended to support a broader war-fighting posture.

To that end, the MDR’s argument that “the United States will not accept any limitation or constraint” on its missile defense capabilities will only serve to raise tensions, further stimulate adversarial efforts to outmaneuver or outpace missile defenses, and undermine strategic stability.

During the upcoming spring hearings, Congress will have an important role to play in determining which capabilities are actually necessary in order to enforce a limited missile defense posture, and which ones are superfluous. And for those superfluous capabilities, there should be very strong pushback. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the FAS website.


The 2019 Missile Defense Review: A Good Start (excerpt)
(Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies; issued Jan 17, 2019)
The Trump administration has today released its long-awaited Missile Defense Review (MDR). Initiated pursuant to both congressional and presidential direction, the report represents an attempt to adapt U.S. missile defense policy, posture, and programs to the strategic environment of great power competition.

The United States and its allies face a more complex and challenging aerial threat environment than ever before. Emphasizing the utility of active and to some extent passive defenses against a wide spectrum of air and missile threats, the MDR points the way toward the ever-elusive vision of Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), while also acknowledging the relationship between military, nonproliferation, and diplomatic measures to stem and dissuade missile proliferation.

As Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan noted in its release, “to our competitors, we see what you are doing, and we are taking action.”

Q1: What’s new and different?

A1: Make no mistake: the 2019 MDR represents in many respects a striking degree of continuity in the missile defense enterprise, for both the program of record and the institutions that support it. Like the National Defense Strategy before it, the significance of the document lies in its prognosis of the strategic environment. The document also clearly shows a heavy influence of and continuity with the doctrinal developments by the Joint Staff in recent years, including from 2013 and 2017.

For the first time, the document puts Russia and China in the same sentence as missile defenses, making explicit what has hitherto been implicit. Consistent with the National Security Strategy and with the 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR), the United States will continue to rely upon nuclear deterrence for strategic nuclear attack from major powers, but it will more aggressively pursue a variety of kinetic and non-kinetic means to counter regional ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs)—from whatever source. While acknowledging that a path to peace with North Korea may theoretically be possible, the review endorses a defense and defeat dominant posture toward rogue states. The single most significant action in the MDR is the endorsement of a Space Sensor Layer (SSL).

President Trump’s remarks at the report’s release included the explicit ambition to defeat any missile fired at the United States, from any place, at any time. The actual programmatic muscle movements endorsed by the review, however, are comparatively modest.

In contrast with the 2010 BMDR, this review neither cancels nor announces the beginning of any new major programs of record. So, while the 2019 MDR considerably expands the vision for missile defense, it does not break china. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the CSIS website.


Trump's Dangerous Missile Defense Buildup
(Source: Arms Control Association; posted Jan 17, 2019)
By Kingston A. Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy
The Trump administration's long-awaited Missile Defense Review, which was released today, proposes a significant and costly expansion of the role and scope of U.S. missile defenses that is likely to exacerbate Russian and Chinese concerns about the threat to their strategic nuclear deterrents, undermine strategic stability, and further complicate the prospects for additional nuclear arms reductions.

Of particular concern was President Donald Trump's statement during his remarks at the Pentagon that the goal of U.S. missile defenses is to "ensure we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, anyplace."

This would be a costly, unachievable, and destabilizing departure from longstanding policy and contradicts the text of the review, which limits U.S. homeland missiles defense to their traditional role of defending against limited attacks from North Korea or Iran. In addition, the review proposes "to further thicken defensive capabilities for the U.S. homeland" with the new Aegis SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, hundreds of which could eventually be deployed on land and at sea across the globe.

As Congress scrutinizes the Missile Defense Review, members would do well to recognize that rushing to fund an open-ended and unconstrained missile defense buildup is misguided and would diminish U.S. security.

Congress in 2016 mandated the Pentagon to conduct a broad review of missile defense policy and strategy. Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis initiated the review in the spring of 2017 and it was originally slated to be published alongside the Nuclear Posture Review in February 2018. The reasons for the delay in the completion of the review are unclear.

The review expands the purpose of missile defense to defend against cruise and hypersonic missiles, proposes more aggressive defense against Russian and Chinese regional missile threats, alludes to the future development of airborne interceptors for boost-phase missile defense (i.e. when missiles are traveling at their slowest, right after launch), and proposes to augment the defense of the U.S. homeland with additional ground- and sea-based Aegis SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptors.


Bottom Line

Rather than rush to spend billions on a potentially dangerous expansion of U.S. missile defenses, a more disciplined approach would focus on improving the shortcomings that continue to plague current systems, such as GMD, and improve capabilities to detect and track missiles.

Moreover, the United States should pursue wide-ranging dialogues with Russia and China on strategic stability, including the impact of missile defense, and foreswear particularly destabilizing steps, such as pursuing space-based interceptors and testing the SM-3 Block IIA against ICBMs.

Click here for the full story, on the ACA website.


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