America’s ability to protect its homeland from a devastating ballistic missile attack could be severely damaged if the sequestration process under the Budget Control Act of 2011 happens, writes Mead Treadwell, Alaska’s lieutenant governor, in a recent op-ed. He is right: The U.S. missile defense program already struggles to keep the pace with ballistic missile proliferation.

The Obama Administration is partly responsible for this state of affairs. In 2009, the Administration proposed a $1.6 billion cut to the missile defense program compared to the prior year’s budget estimate. The program has been recovering from this cut ever since. The Administration also cut the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (which would help to address a boost phase ballistic missile threat) and the Multiple Kill Vehicle (which would make the existing Ground-Based Midcourse Defense more efficient) programs. In pursuing its failing “reset” policy with the Russian Federation, the Administration cancelled the “third site,” a ballistic missile defense plan for the protection of the U.S. homeland and European allies.

The commitment of this Administration to arms-control ideology led to the New Strategic Arms Control Treaty, the first treaty in arms-control history that allows Russia to build up its nuclear forces while mandating unilateral U.S. cuts to its strategic arsenal. The treaty also contains language potentially limiting U.S. missile defense systems—a holy grail of the Russian strategic thinking for the past several decades. In addition, the Administration might be working on finding additional ways to limit U.S. missile defenses.

While Iran and North Korea are working on their nuclear weapon and long-range ballistic missile programs, the United States is running out of time to develop and deploy systems that would protect its homeland and allies. To hedge against these threats, the United States should:

  • Expand and improve the Navy’s proven sea-based Aegis missile defense system;
  • Pursue and expand advanced integration of the various components of a layered missile defense system, including ground-based interceptors; and
  • Develop and deploy space-based missile defenses, particularly space-based interceptors, to counter ballistic missile attacks.

The sequestration process would have catastrophic consequences for the U.S. defense budget and its missile defense portion alike and should be prevented.