Representative Michael Turner (R–OH), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, recently published an opinion piece in Roll Call entitled “Proposed Missile Defense Cuts Reflect Obama’s Naiveté.” This article is a welcome addition to the public discourse in response to President Obama’s proposed cuts to national missile defense.

Turner begins by addressing the popular argument that “there is no real threat to America” evidenced by “North Korea’s recent missile test failure.” Along this line of reasoning, President Obama’s proposed cuts to missile defense should be of little concern. The chairman simply labels this particular assertion as “incorrect and deeply naïve.”

Complacency, despite the North Korean missile launch failure, is ill-advised given the current global security environment. North Korea continues “to invest in developing the means to attack the American people” and has only just unveiled six road-mobile ballistic missiles that defense officials had “been warning of since last May.” Pyongyang currently possesses short-range and medium-range missiles that effectively function and are capable of delivering nuclear warheads. It is prudent to remember that even the United States, along with other nations, had a succession of failures in the beginning phases of their programs before achieving operational success.

North Korea’s hostile actions alone justify the need for a comprehensive ballistic missile defense system and, as Turner words it, “the problem is, of course, larger than North Korea.” More than 32 countries possess ballistic missiles and the nuclear weapons club, which was once exclusive, has grown to nine members with Iran emerging as a regional nuclear power capable of threatening U.S. interests and allies. At the same time, Russia and China have been deploying innovative nuclear capabilities regularly while, in contrast, the U.S.’s nuclear program is steadily declining due to lack of a much-needed modernization plan. President Obama’s proposed cuts to missile defense will render the country wholly inadequate to deal with the continued expansion of ballistic missiles worldwide.

The Heritage Foundation recommends several steps to protect the American people and vital interests from a ballistic missile attack. These steps, leading to a comprehensive missile defense system, would include:

  • Expanding and continually improving the Navy’s proven Aegis missile defense system;
  • Expanding advanced integration of 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.

This three-step plan would fall short of completely repairing the problems related to the President’s budget proposals. Nevertheless, implementing these would be a step in the right direction—toward meeting America’s comprehensive security needs in a world in which the proliferation and modernization of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles is increasing.

Bryan Kimbell is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: