Cruz Amendment Calls for Expanded Missile Defense
In the Senate Armed Services Committee markup of the annual defense authorization bill, Sen. Ted Cruz successfully offered an amendment designed to change present U.S missile defense policy from defending against “limited” threats by striking the word “limited” – i.e., to permit missile defenses against large scale attacks from Russia and China.
The official U.S. missile defense policy, adopted in a 1999 National Security Presidential Directive, states: “It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate).”
Cruz would take out the word “limited.”
In a press release, Senator Cruz boasted that his amendment “removes a flawed statutory constraint on U.S. missile defense policy” that would permit the Pentagon to “consider and plan against the full spectrum of ballistic missile threats.”
However, it makes no sense to expand a missile defense system that remains inadequate to defend against a limited attack from Iran and North Korea.
Present missile defense system remains deficient
A February 2016 GAO report concluded, despite extensive testing and decades of trying, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) “has not demonstrated through flight testing that it can defend the U.S. homeland against the current missile defense threat.” In other words, after spending many billions of dollars, the interceptors may work, or may not, but no President of the United States should rely on it.
Test results of long-range missile defenses has been spotty
According to the Missile Defense Agency’s generous reckoning, the National Missile Defense system has had nine successful tests out of 17 since 1999. That count includes three misses in the most recent four attempts, showing that the GMD system continues to be unreliable. Moreover, these were highly scripted tests, never tested in an operationally realistic environment, never with a full range of decoys and countermeasures that North Korea or Iran might use, and never tested against an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.
Attempts to build a limited missile defense system have been expensive; costs of an expanded system could be astronomical
Since World War II, the U.S. has spent approximately $250 billion on all forms of missile defense without coming up with a reliable national missile defense system. To address the new threats incorporated by Sen. Cruz’s amendment would require an expansive, layered missile defense system. A 2003 study titled “The Full Costs of Ballistic Missile Defense” estimated that the lifetime cost of a layered nationwide missile would be between $1.04 trillion and $1.56 trillion (when adjusted to FY16 dollars).
Missile Defense does not deal with terror threats from ISIL and other groups
A trillion dollars spent on missile defense is money not spent addressing the threat of non-state actors or other defense or national priorities.
Expanded missile defense could lead to Russia and the U.S. to a destabilizing expansion of their nuclear weapons programs to overcome those defenses.
When faced with a previous proposal from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-NC) to build an expanded missile defense system against Russia and China, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates replied that rendering Russia’s nuclear capability useless “would be enormously destabilizing, not to mention unbelievable expensive.” (May 18, 2010 Senate Foreign Relations hearing).