Arne Pedersen
Herald Bulletin 

Three years after President Obama opened an outstretched hand to Iran and attempted to reset relations with Russia, the former has restarted its drive to build nuclear weapons including recent missile testing and saber rattling while the latter has dropped its diplomatic relations to Cold War temperatures. Meanwhile, the U.S. has slowed its development of missile defenses that are our only protection from Iranian and North Korean ballistic missiles. 

It seems to me that the administration’s policy is purely political will rather than a pragmatic and strategic national security view. As the storm clouds of the growing ballistic missile threat gather on the horizon, Congress is embroiled in nickel and diming the only missile shields that could protect us while the Obama administration remains mired in fruitless negotiations with Russia. It’s high time to break this spell and get our national security back on track.

A recent United Nations report revealed Iran’s renewed campaign to build nuclear weapons, while an explosion at an Iranian testing facility late last year suggested ongoing testing of new ballistic missile technologies. And instead of welcoming President Obama’s promise not to place ground-based missile interceptors in Poland — which would have been capable of defending against long-range Iranian ballistic missiles by 2015 — Russia has snarled at even the more limited ship-based missile defenses President Obama has deployed near Turkey, threatening to move ballistic missiles just off the border with Poland in an open sign of aggression.

Even more troubling is recent intelligence that North Korea is building a mobile ballistic missile platform that could evade U.S. radars and launch a surprise attack. A new missile testing facility has appeared on North Korea’s west coast — one that is even larger than the facility used to develop the country’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which has a range that reaches to Alaska and California. Many speculate the North Koreans could be developing larger ballistic missiles that could reach even farther.

A recent study by Georgetown University students of a vast network of underground tunnels in China has raised questions about the extent of the growing military power’s cache of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles. Even more frightening than weapons we can see are those we cannot. Countries everywhere are increasingly turning to ballistic missiles as a military trump card, effective even in the face of overwhelming U.S. firepower.

Confronted with the spreading threat of nuclear ballistic missiles, the U.S. has stood still or moved backward, cutting or canceling the only systems that could protect us. President Obama has slowed deployment of missile interceptors to bases in California and Alaska that would bolster the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system — the only missile shield that protects the U.S. mainland from missile attack. The Obama administration also canceled a new technology that would have enabled each interceptor to destroy multiple ballistic missiles, as well as kilowatt laser technology that proved in its first test capable of zapping a boosting ballistic missile out of the sky.

More recently, the Senate Defense Appropriations bill eliminated funding for President Obama’s plans to develop new variants of the sea-based SM-3 system to add protection against Iranian long-range ICBMs. In addition, Congress’ failure to agree on bipartisan cuts to the federal budget has triggered an unprecedented one trillion dollars in defense cuts, some of which will come out of the slim budget — a fraction of 1 percent of federal spending — for these essential missile defenses. The silver lining in this dark cloud of gloomy intelligence reports and lukewarm government support is that today’s missile defenses are proven and ready to protect the U.S. against current threats. Although opposed by Democrats in the 1980s and ’90s, a decade of successful testing has convinced leaders like President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that these systems are fundamental to our national security. We need leaders who have the courage to deploy them and the steady investment to stay several steps ahead of tomorrow’s threats.

President Obama weakens our national security and his chances of reelection by slowing missile defense development in hopes of thawing relations with either Iran or Russia. Neither will Congress reduce the deficit by canceling funding for missile defense, which barely registers as a drop in the ocean of current federal spending. Let’s hope that Washington wakes up to the growing ballistic missile threat and supports the systems capable of dealing with it.