Growing threat from North Korea fuels debate over billions in missile shield spending

September 15, 2017

Washington Examiner:

With President Trump pledging to spend billions more on missile defense in the wake of North Korea’s continued defiance, familiar battle lines are being drawn between advocates of strengthening U.S. missile defenses and critics who claim the current system is pie in the sky.

After meeting with his national security team in Bedminster, N.J., last month, Trump vowed to increase overall defense spending by “billions of dollars,” and indicated he was no longer satisfied with the funding levels for America’s multi-layered missile shield.

“As you know, we reduced it by 5 percent, but I’ve decided I don’t want that,” Trump said. “We are going to be increasing the anti-missiles by a substantial amount of billions of dollars.”

Like many of the president’s pronouncements, it’s heavy on intent, but light on details.

So far no plan has been submitted to Congress to boost missile defense spending, although the Senate version of the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes a requirement to buy an additional 28 ground-based interceptors, to be based mainly in Alaska.

That’s understandable but misguided, argues Tom Collina, policy director at the Ploughshares Fund, which works to reduce the threat from nuclear weapons.

“We have to ask ourselves the question: There is only so much money to go around, should we be continuing to spend our money on systems that are simply not proving to be reliable?” Collina asked.

But Riki Ellison, chairman and founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a group that advocates for more spending on missile defense, says that’s a tired old argument that is refuted by the most recent successful intercept tests.

“We do have capability today that’s tested and proven against the North Korea threat,” said Ellison, citing a successful test in May in which a U.S. interceptor shot down a mock North Korean missile in a scenario designed to be an exact replica of North Korean ballistic missile attack.

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