The FY-14 House Armed Services Committee National Defense Authorization Act markup occurred last Wednesday, June 5th 2013. During the markup, there was discussion on whether to mandate an East Coast missile defense site by 2018. Today, the House Appropriations Committee approved the bill, including 512.5 Billion Dollars in base spending and 85.8 Billion Dollars in war spending.
Some members of the House were skeptical as to whether the defense site was prudent. Referencing Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, In a June 10 letter to Senator Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, Syring wrote that there is no military requirement to deploy an East Coast Missile Defense System. Instead of building a system that cannot do the job, Syring advocates investment in discrimination and sensor capabilities that would result in a more cost effective improvement to the missile defense system.
Expansion of ground based missile defense systems to the East Coast would not better defend the United States. Pentagon Officials state that the systems on the West Coast can adequately defend the continental United States from an attack by Iran or North Korea. However, The National Academy of Sciences released a report in September 2012 in support of an East Coast site, but only once a new missile defense system had been developed. The current systems are flawed, and would be of little defensive help.
More funding for discrimination and sensor capabilities would be worthwhile in that these functions are difficult tasks. For example, there have been 17 flight intercept tests since 1997, only 8 of which were successful. Since December 2002, there have been 9 intercept tests, only three of which were successful. The last successful intercept test occurred on December 5, 2008.
There are better ways to spend three billion dollars than on a rushed, cobbled together missile defense system that will do little to protect citizens of the East Coast. For more information on missile defense, read the ASP U.S. Missile Defense and European Security fact sheet, or listen to Frank Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space and Space and Defense Policy, discuss U.S.-Russia missile defense cooperation.