The U.S. Navy and the Missile Defense Agency completed a successful test of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) and Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) interceptors this past week, marking the 10th anniversary of the Aegis missile defense system becoming operational. During this simulated attack, the SM-3 Block IB destroyed a short-range ballistic missile and the two SM-2 Block IIIAs destroyed cruise missile targets. These types of missile defense tests stress the importance of testing and modernization to provide a sufficiently layered missile defense system.

U.S. Missile Defense Efforts

The Aegis missile defense system is designed to neutralize “short- to intermediate-range, midcourse-phase, ballistic missile threats above the atmosphere.” The system has a successful track record, and the U.S. is planning to deploy a land-based variant of the system in Poland and Romania to counter the Iranian ballistic missile threat.

It is critical that the U.S. adequately fund missile defense modernization efforts. The Obama Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget submission requests 471 SM-3 interceptors through FY 2018. This quantity might be inadequate to address a growing ballistic missile threat. Baker Spring, former Kirby Fellow in National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation, wrote, “[I]n order to provide adequate protection the U.S. should buy at least 500 SM-3 interceptor missiles [in FY 2017].”

The Threat

Ballistic missile threat is real. North Korea and Iran continue to increase sophistication of their ballistic missiles and the size of their arsenals. North Korea already has ballistic missiles that can reach U.S. military bases and allies in Asia, including South Korea and Japan, and parts of the United States. North Korea also has an active nuclear weapons program.

While the current U.S. missile defense system is not designed to address the Chinese or the Russian ballistic missile threat, the U.S. should re-evaluate its approach because of Russia’s increasing belligerence, nuclear threats to NATO allies, extensive nuclear and ballistic missile modernization program, and demonstrated willingness to alter the security environment in Europe by invading Ukraine earlier this year.

Adequate Funding Is Essential

The Obama Administration and Congress need to come together to provide adequate funding for U.S. missile defense efforts, including modernization and research and development efforts.

U.S. missile defense efforts have been severely underfunded by the Obama Administration. The White House’s FY 2015 budget request for missile defense reduced the Missile Defense Agency’s budget from $7.7 billion in FY 2014 to $7.5 billion in FY 2015.

Inadequate missile defense funding could leave the U.S. vulnerable to ballistic missile attack. A long-range ballistic missile launched from anywhere in the world could reach the U.S. territory in as little as 33 minutes. It is imperative that the President and Congress provide adequate funding for missile defense.