EPAA: Fact or Fiction in the Future?

Baker Spring / Michaela Dodge /

The White House has recently announced more details about the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), a ballistic missile defense plan for the protection of allies and friends in Europe and the U.S. homeland in its later stages.

While the EPAA has certain good aspects, including advancing the Aegis sea-based missile defense capability, it would not provide the kind of robust missile defenses needed by the United States and its friends and allies.

For example, it is not until the Phase Four (2020) timeframe that the plan would provide additional defensive capabilities to improve the ability of the U.S. to defend its people and territory against a long-range missile attack. Iran, however, might have a capability to target the U.S. homeland as early as 2015. The Phase Four also assumes that the development of the SM-3 interceptor will proceed on schedule. Given the current fiscal environment, this will be increasingly difficult for the Department of Defense.

The Aegis system is said to provide coverage against medium- and intermediate-range missiles. It is not until Phase Four that it is slated to be capable countering long-range missiles. As experts at The Heritage Foundation point 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. This would further increase its effectiveness and reliability of the system. This raises a question: Why wait until 2020 and not give Aegis the desired capability at a much earlier date?

So far, the Administration seems to be on track regarding Phases One and Two of the EPAA. This is essential, as it is wise to involve European allies. Agreements with Poland, Romania, and Turkey should translate into Europe taking defense more seriously and investing in its own security. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization 2010 Strategic Concept declared missile defense the core element of the collective defense, further raising stakes in the ballistic missile protection of Europe.

On the other hand, the EPAA fails to advance a program for deploying space-based interceptors. Worse, the Obama Administration has demonstrated the willingness to subordinate the missile defense program to advance its arms control and nuclear disarmament agendas. This means that there is a high likelihood that the U.S. will withdraw certain elements of its own EPAA proposal in the future. This would be an unfortunate signal for U.S. allies relying on the United States for their security in Europe and around the world.