US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivers remarks regarding his US Defense Department budget recomendation for 2010, on April 6, 2009 at the Pentagon in Washington,DC. Gates announced Monday that his recommended defense budget would "profoundly reform" military spending, calling for cuts to major weapons programs such as F-22 fighter jets. "If approved, these recommendations will profoundly reform how this department does business," Gates told a news conference.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates budget proposal includes a $1.4 billion cut to missile defense. In The American Legion Magazine Heritage analyst James Carafano outlines just one reason such cuts will leave America more vulnerable:

Today, the nature of a nuclear threat is different. The United States is less concerned about massive retaliation from another nuclear-armed state and far more worried about a rogue nation or transnational terrorist group that might try to land a sucker-punch, especially if they think they can deliver the blow without leaving a return address.

Several credible scenarios present themselves. … Put a nuclear-tipped Scud on any kind of ship, and you have a “Scud in a bucket.” The idea seems to have occurred to some who do not wish us well.

Terrorist-friendly Iran, for example, is developing the capacity to build its own nuclear weapons. The Iranians have also conducted missile tests from sea-based platforms. In these tests, they have detonated warheads at the high point of the missile trajectory rather than at the aim point over the target.

Connect these dots, and you get an unpleasant picture. The tests certainly appear to be part of a research program to develop a covert means of launching an EMP attack against the United States. A short-range ballistic missile could be carried on board one of the thousands of commercial freighters sailing in U.S. waters every day. Without ever piquing the interest of the Navy, the Coast Guard or the Customs and Border Protection, a ship could sail within range and deliver its payload over U.S. territory. Even a modest warhead placed at the right spot over the east coast could take down 75 percent of the electrical grid.

Missile defense is a game-changer. … The mission is simple: shoot down the enemy missile as it is being fired into space. That would not only minimize the EMP threat, it would also address the danger of anyone shooting a missile tipped with a nuclear, biological, chemical or explosive warhead at a U.S. city.