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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
American citizens have an increasing need for a robust missile defense program to protect them from an intercontinental missile attack. These potential threats to national security have continued to expand worldwide and the U.S. missile defense infrastructure is currently in need of an upgrade. The central role of the federal government is to protect the homeland, and with a new threat from Iran, the federal government needs to act by refocusing on a missile defense program to combat these emerging threats.
Iran has announced new missile technology that they have named in a way to try to intimidate Americans. France24 reported on August 20, 2020, “Iran on Thursday unveiled two missiles it said had a bigger range than before, naming them after commanders killed in January by a US strike in Iraq.” These missiles are capable of striking targets located over 600 miles from the launch site. Although they have not developed the technology necessary for a missile to reach the United States mainland, the steps in that direction should spur action by the U.S. government to beef up defenses.
The report indicated that “one of the new missiles, the ‘Haj Qasem’, a ballistic missile, was named in honour of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, killed in January in an American strike in Baghdad.” Another was named after Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was killed in the U.S. strike on Gen. Soleimani. The Iranians said on state television that the missile will serve as “Iran’s long arm for hitting the aggressors.” This can be considered a direct threat against U.S. interests in the Iran region and American military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Senate has an emergency appropriation to give $200 million for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program (GMD). The GMD is ground based in California and Alaska, which when launched would intercept and use a kill vehicle to stop the incoming missiles in space. There was a redesign and update of the Kill Vehicle element of the GMD that was halted by the Pentagon after a contractor, Raytheon, had problems delivering on the project. Additional funding is needed to deploy more GMD systems and there is a need to allocate more money to procure a new redesigned kill vehicle contractor.
While talks are going on to broker a landmark arms control deal with the U.S., Russia and China, it makes sense to continue adding funds for the GMD to put pressure on the talks to come to a reasonable deal. According to the Wall Street Journal in a story published on August 18, 2020, “After months of insisting that China join nuclear arms control talks with the U.S. and Russia, the Trump administration signaled Tuesday that it will seek to negotiate a separate framework agreement with Moscow and move to bring Beijing on board later.” The goal of the Trump Administration is to roll out an election-year deal between Presidents Trump and Putin that will usher in a new era of arms control. This cannot happen without the U.S. continuing to upgrade defenses to keep China and Russia honest.
For years, the U.S. worked under the dangerous theory of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) as a deterrent for the old Soviet Union attacking the U.S. with nuclear missiles. We are now in a new time where nuclear threats still come from traditional adversaries like Russia and China, but they have been joined by nations desperate to get nuclear missile technology to strengthen their grip on power like North Korea and Iran. A deal with Russia, and even China, will not remove the long term need for GMD with new nations acquiring nuclear missile technology.
The American public wants to be assured safety. While they currently fear the long-term consequences of the coronavirus to their society and riots in the streets of American cities, the threat of war is always at the back of their minds. President Trump can go a long way to remove that fear by upgrading GMD, brokering a deal with the Russians on nuclear warheads and to work on an effective treatment to neutralize the devastating health and economic impact of the coronavirus.
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