The missile defense budget has been on the chopping block ever since the Obama Administration took office. In 2009, President Obama proposed $1.6 billion in cuts compared to the prior year’s budget estimate. In 2010, the Administration proposed a modest increase in the missile defense budget for FY 2011 but only in comparison to the reduced level for FY 2010.

This year’s missile defense budget request is still almost 2 percent in real dollars below what the Bush Administration requested for FY 2009. In short, the U.S. missile defense program has been treading water.

President Obama cut the number of ground-based interceptors (GBIs) in Alaska and California from 44 to 30. In addition, the Administration pulled out of the “third site,” a Bush Administration’s ballistic missile defense plan that would result in 10 two-stage GBIs in Poland and an X-Band Radar in the Czech Republic. This deployment configuration would further protect the U.S. homeland and the European territory.

Instead, the Obama Administration has proposed the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), which would not provide an additional defense to the U.S. homeland until around 2020 with an advancement of the Standard Missile-3 on an Aegis platform. In the meantime, North Korea already has a ballistic missile capability to target Hawaii and parts of Alaska. Iran is well on its way to construct its first intercontinental-range ballistic missile.

Faster implementation of the EPAA is essential. As Admiral J. D. Williams points out, however, Aegis can be given the capability of countering long-range missiles at a much earlier date than the 2020 so long as proper command-and-control arrangements are put in place and the interceptor in the Aegis weapon system is tied to a properly positioned surface radar.

Recently, the Senate Appropriations Committee to cut $123 million from the Aegis Standard Missile Block II-B development effort. If Congress proceeds with the cut, it is essential that it directs the Navy to use a portion of the funds to conduct a test of one of the earlier versions of the Standard Missile-3 against a long-range target missile as soon as possible.

The homeland missile defense system should be protected from budget cuts. It offers the United States freedom from the fear of a ballistic missile attack and constitutes only about 1.52 percent of the defense budget, according to the Administration’s FY 2012 budget requests. This is only a minor investment considering how much damage a successful ballistic missile attack would cause.