Increasing Global Threats Call for Capabilities to Deter, Defend, Officials Say

In today’s increasingly complex and threatening environment, the Defense Department must sustain the capabilities needed to deter and defend against attacks on the U.S. homeland, its forces abroad and its allies and partners, John C. Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, said on Capitol Hill yesterday.

“We must make the investments needed to address the ongoing erosion of our operational advantages and remain the pre-eminent military power in the world,” Rood told the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on strategic forces, in support of the fiscal year 2019 DoD budget for missile defense and the policies, programs and capabilities it supports.

Adversaries Developing New Threat Capabilities

“Our adversaries are taking deliberate steps to extend their operational reach and are developing new capabilities to range targets in North America and Canada,” Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson, commander, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, told the panel.

“At U.S. Northcom and NORAD, we understand the urgency of keeping pace with these evolving threats,” the general said. “We also recognize that North Korea represents the most immediate threat to our homeland and therefore remains Northcom’s highest priority. I’m confident the ground-based Missile Defense System can defeat this threat today and I strongly support the continued improvements to the ballistic missile defense enterprise to maintain our advantage.”

In 2017, DoD requested the reprogramming of fiscal year 2017 funding of more than $400 million to counter the North Korean missile threat, Rood noted. “Congress approved this request for which we are grateful,” he said.

Support for Homeland Defense

“These funds support important homeland defense activities including initiating work on the procurement of 20 additional ground-based interceptors in Alaska as early as 2023, which will bring the total to 64 fielded interceptors. The reprogramming also funded a service life extension to the Cobra Dane radar in Alaska and software upgrades to the sea-based X-band radar, both of which are essential elements to our homeland defense,” he added.

In November 2017, the president submitted an amendment to the 2018 budget request for $4 billion for missile defense, which includes construction of a new missile field at a military installation in Alaska and additional procurement funding for 20 more interceptors, Rood noted.

The fiscal year 2019 budget request includes $9.9 billion for the Missile Defense Agency and $3 billion in additional money for air and missile defense activities in the military departments, he said.

Fiscal Year 2019 Budget

“This budget funds a more capable [gound-based interceptors] with the redesign kill vehicle, the deployment of missile tracking, and discrimination sensors networks in Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific region, and a new space-based kill assessment capability,” Rood said. “These near-term investments will help us obtain substantially more performance and efficiency out of the [ground-based Missile Defense System] necessary to meet the evolving threat.”

DoD also is taking steps to bolster homeland defenses against missile threats, and 2018 will complete the first part of a two-part effort to provide effective surveillance against these threats to the National Capital Region, he said. The surveillance will enhance DoD’s ability to detect, track and investigate suspicious aircraft and cruise missiles, and when necessary, queue U.S. missile defense systems against the full spectrum of air threats, Rood added.

“We’re on track to begin the second phase of this effort in fiscal year ’19, which will expand our capabilities to detect, identify and take decisive action before threats can strike potential targets within the National Capital Region,” he said.

Regional Missile Defenses

DoD also is looking into technologies and concepts to provide scalable and deployable options for expanding this capability. The department’s budget request also includes deployment of regional missile defenses tailored to meet threats to U.S. forces abroad and allies and partners in Europe, the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific region, Rood said. The budget also enhances DoD’s regional missile defense capability.

“Our focus is on developing and fielding missile defense capabilities that are mobile and relocatable, which allows us flexibility to respond to a crisis wherever it might emerge. Because systems such as Patriot, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Aegis BMD-capable ships can be surged when and where required, they make it possible to deploy layered missile-defense capabilities that are responsible to regional threats as they arise,” he said.

DoD is encouraging its allies and partners in Europe, the Middle East and Near East in Asia to acquire missile defense capabilities and to strengthen cooperation to move toward a more interoperable and integrated missile defense architecture against hostile ballistic missile and cruise missile threats, Rood said.

“Looking forward, it’s clear our potential adversaries are modernizing and expanding their capabilities. We must ensure that our missile defense investment strategy and priorities enable us to meet the most dangerous threats today while also enabling us to counter future missile threats as they expand,” he said.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk: @MoonCronkDoD)