Two modified Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) Block IV interceptors are launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) during a Missile Defense Agency test to intercept a short-range ballistic missile target June 5, 2008 in the Pacific Ocean west of Kauai, Hawaii. The missile, one of two launched, intercepted the target approximately 12 miles high on the Pacific Missile Range Facility. This was the second of two successful intercepts of the sea-based terminal capability and the fourteenth overall successful test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Program.

This year, President Obama proposed cutting $1.4 billion from the Missile Defense Agency budget in an effort to focus on “rogue state and theater missile threats.” As part of this effort to supposedly ‘restructure’ the missile defense program, Obama also proposed limiting the planned deployment of interceptors in Alaska and California from 44 to 30.

Now, after a week in which the U.S. has witnessed repeated missile tests by North Korea (and possible more to come), Obama’s Secretary of Defense appears ready to at least entertain the possibility of reducing proposed cuts to the missile defense budget. This approach, Gates insists (conveniently), was “not a forever decision.”

Gates’ backpedaling on behalf of the Obama Administration in the face of repeated missile tests in recent weeks by North Korea and Iran demonstrates the fundamental weakness and futility of the threats-based approach Gates uses to justify Obama’s defense budget cuts. Instead of planning prudently for an uncertain future by investing in a range of core military capabilities, the Secretary has waged a high-stakes bet that our military should be organized for a narrow vision of the future that he believes will look much like the irregular and hybrid wars of today.

Gates even went so far as to admit the importance of a comprehensive missile defense strategy, arguing that “If anything, I think what the North Koreans have done has won more adherence to the importance of our having at least a unified missile defense capability.”

If Gates and Obama were serious about such a unified approach, they should be emphasizing boost-phase missile defense solutions, including space-based systems, instead of reducing funding for programs like the Airborne Laser.