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Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense, and Taro Kono, Japanese Defense Minister, at a press briefing at the Pentagon on January 14, 2020 (Photo: DoD by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee).

“We continue to send a message that we remain ready to fight tonight if necessary; and my second mission is to enable our diplomats, and we still believe that the best path forward is a diplomatic solution.” – Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense, at the Pentagon on January 14, 2020.

Strong capable deterrence of cost imposition, denial of threats and international norms stabilizes, prevents conflict, enables the best diplomatic path forward, and forces our nation’s ability to defend tonight the forces prepared to fight tonight if necessary, which is the critical underpinning of deterrence calculus for Iran and North Korea. The weakest pillar of deterrence today is the capacity to deny the threats. If the deterrence calculus breaks and our adversaries attack with their weapons of choice- missiles-  to challenge the United States, first to fire will be the limited numbers of U.S. missile defense capabilities operationally deployed around our deterrent forces and critical assets in these regions and for our homeland.

There is a very strong probability that Iran, and its proxies, and North Korea will continue to launch missiles in a calculated manor at the weakest pillars of deterrence as has been demonstrated to check the cost imposition of U.S. military power deterrence and economic sanctions coupled with international norms of policing, world opinion and United Nations deterrence.

Sanctions to take away oil production market share from Iran as the United States’ dependency on oil in the Middle East has been stopped has had an indirect consequence.  “We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.  We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil.” – President Donald Trump at the White House on January 8, 2020.

As a result the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have had to increase their oil production. Iran’s calculus was to strike both countries territories and interests, in strikes to Saudi, Emirati, Japanese, and Norwegian oil tankers on May 13 and June 13 and on Saudi soil by destroying facilities at an oil refinery on September 14 to collectively intimidate Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s increased oil production.

North Korea’s calculus on breaking the weakest pillar of U.S. deterrence has been to continue to launch depressed trajectories of their new short-range ballistic missiles (7 in 2019) and to lift their self-imposed moratorium of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and nuclear testing to increase their power projection capability and capacity to hold firm on their nuclear weapons and negotiate with the United States in 2020.

Unilateral U.S. economic sanctions and collective United Nations sanctions have had little effect on either of Iran or North Korea’s aggressive behavior in their development and use of missiles and by restriction of imported goods and trade on domestic markets as they continue to hold their prices down for their people by subsidies given to them from other nations or resulted increased trade with nations other than the United States. Iran’s number one trading partner is Italy along with many other European countries, as well as Canada. China makes up close to 90% of North Korea’s trade. Both Iran and North Korea continue to be functional nations.

With sanctions not producing the effects of change of behavior desired, the continuation of intimidation by missiles remains the reality of these two countries to project power to the United States and its allies. In return, the United States simply does not have enough missile defense capacity to defend all of its bases, people and assets in the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and the United States homeland. The United States critical deterrent bases and Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs) in both regions are defended by their respective service’s capabilities against this threat, but lack of capacity doesn’t protect all of the critical assets and people in the regions nor does it give sustainment depth and time for an extended fight for those assets that are defended should deterrence break.

Compounding this limited missile defense capacity is how to best fight this fight from U.S. policy, operations, and efficiency to increase effectiveness by cross U.S. service using cross-domain sensors and weapon systems. The tactical implementation of the individual missile defense systems and their operators are professional experts that are extremely effective, reliable, and in a high state of readiness.

The greatest potential and missing opportunity to dramatically increase U.S. limited missile defense capacity in both regions is the force multiplier of integrating allied missile defense sensors and intercept systems already deployed in the regions with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in Japan, in Korea, and with our NATO partners. Israel sets the standard of all nations of maximizing missile defense capacity and capability in integration excellence in a bilateral defense integration with the United States.

Japan is a close second partnering with the United States and is out front leading by increasing capacity of missile defense systems. This week Japan’s Minister of Defense, Taro Kono, stepped forward on a five day visit to the U.S. that has included a meeting with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the Pentagon and with Vice Admiral Jon Hill, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, at the Aegis Ashore site at Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Hawaii.

“I’d like to thank the Minister for Japan’s decision to — to — to deploy its Self-Defense Force assets to the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.  In advancing our maritime security objectives, we will continue to share information and cooperate on operations in the Middle East as we work to promote freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce.” – Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense, at the Pentagon on January 14, 2019.

“By utilizing the Aegis Ashore system, we’ll secure Japan against North Korean missiles. We want to deploy (the Aegis Ashore missile defense units) as soon as possible.” – Taro Kono, Japan’s Minister of Defense, at the Aegis Ashore site at the PMRF at Kauai, Hawaii on January 13, 2020.

“Second, we discussed the issue of North Korea.  We affirmed that ballistic missile launches by North Korea pose a serious threat to regional security, and confirm the importance of whole implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution for complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of all North — all Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges. We confirmed to work closely together to counter North Korea’s illicit ship-to-ship transfers. Third, Japan-U.S. alliance has become even stronger and we confirmed that we continue to closely work together to reinforce the alliance deterrence and response capability in order to operationalize our aligned strategies.  We also reaffirmed the significance of cooperation with various partners, including conducting joint exercise and capacity building assistance, with Japan-U.S. alliance being the cornerstone.” – Taro Kono, Japan’s Minister of Defense, at the Pentagon on January 14, 2020

We as a world and as a nation have to have more missile defense capacity and capability together along with bilateral U.S. integration with our allies of these systems to increase our deterrence of denial to Iran and North Korea which solidifies their calculus not to strike and provides a much stronger deterrent for stability and peace.

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Mission Statement

MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.

MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.