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Maximizing Missile Defense

After two years in office, President's Obama's vision for missile defense is clear. It is guided by two imperatives. First, Obama believes in "just-enough" and "just-in-time" missile defense. Second, the president does not want any missile defense programs that will interfere with his arms control agenda. The result of these dual priorities is a minimalist agenda that seeks to match current threats, rather than pressing to overmatch threats.


The problem with the president's approach to missile defense is that it leaves the US vulnerable to strategic surprise when intelligence predictions prove wrong and an enemy confronts the United States with an unexpected breakout capability or threat. Furthermore, minimal defense sets a low bar for enemy offensive capabilities--for marginal additional investments that can outpace defensive capabilities.


A more appropriate missile defense program for the United States would be based on the principles of a "protect and defend" strategy, where America presents potential enemies with the robust capacity to defeat their attacks and protect US territory and interests. With that in mind, Heritage Foundation missile defense expert Baker Spring has written "Sixteen Steps to Comprehensive Missile Defense: What the FY 2012 Budget Should Fund." Baker concludes Congress should add some $850 million to the Obama Administration's requested missile defense budget for FY 2012, in part to fund the Navy's Aegis-based missile defense program, the ground-based midcourse defense program, and boost-phase missile defense systems. He further argues, Congress also needs to ensure that the Obama Administration's arms control agenda does not impose further restrictions on U.S. missile defense options.

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