June 19, 2002

June 19, 2002 | News Releases on Missile Defense

Pentagon Agency's Call for Sea-Based Missile Defense is Right on Target

WASHINGTON, Jun. 19 2002-The Heritage Foundation today released the following statement by Baker Spring, the Kirby research fellow in national security policy and a leading expert on missile defense:

"Some observers may be surprised by a report in today's Wall Street Journal that the Pentagon expects to have a sea-based missile defense up and running by 2004, but they shouldn't be. We've known for years that such an approach is not only possible but preferable. It's the fastest, cheapest, and single most reliable way to protect our homeland from missiles.

"Indeed, it's been seven years since the Heritage Foundation's Commission on Missile Defense, a blue-ribbon panel chaired by Ambassador Henry Cooper, former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, published a report urging creation of a sea-based missile defense that eventually would be combined with space-based elements. It called for upgrading what used to be called the Navy Theater-Wide system-itself an upgrade of the Navy's Aegis system, which has protected the U.S. fleet from cruise missiles since the 1970s. An unrestricted sea-based defense could track and destroy missiles launched at the United States or its allies.

"Unlike a ground-based system, which independent estimates show would cost at least $25 billion-for just one site-and take about eight or nine years to build, a sea-based system would be ready to deploy in just two years and cost about $5 billion. That amount would cover the cost of equipping five or six Aegis destroyers with the system, which could protect a much wider area because of its mobility.

"But it's not just a question of money or time. A sea-based defense has another advantage: An alternative design could be used to target incoming missiles in their 'boost' phase-when they're traveling more slowly and can be tracked more easily-and in their 'midcourse' phase. A land-based system can shoot down incoming missiles only in their last, or 'terminal,' phase, when they're hurtling toward their targets at top speed, are harder to track, and have most likely released decoys designed to confuse an intercepting missile.

"According to the Journal, Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, plans to recommend an upgraded Aegis system to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld later this summer. Lt. Gen. Kadish should be commended for taking a course of action that will provide the highest level of security for all Americans."

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