Ask the Experts: Rebeccah Heinrichs
Today’s guest for our “Ask the Experts” interview series is Rebeccah Heinrichs, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. She recently co-authored an article for the Washington Times on President Barack Obama’s missile defense policy and the existing missile threat.
Welcome to the 33-Minutes blog, Ms. Heinrichs. Tell us about your organization and what it does.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies is dedicated to studying the ideologies that drive terrorism and developing policies that can most effectively address terrorism, secure our country, and defend the democratic principles of the United States and our allies. Ultimately, the goal is to make America safer and more secure for generations to come.
Why is missile defense important?
Missile defense is especially important right now because dangerous and unstable regimes have and sell ballistic missiles. Countries like Iran could give ballistic missiles to terrorist groups; if the terrorist group were to launch them, the U.S. would have a more difficult time tracing them back to Iran.
Also, terrorists and regimes with the same radical religious ideology may not be deterred by the threat of retaliation since they view death as a good thing. Missile defense gives the U.S. military the ability to intercept an incoming missile before it lands on an unsuspecting city or military base. More fundamentally, if we have a robust missile defense system in place, it could cause other countries to reconsider pursuing ballistic missiles in the first place, if they know our system would render them useless. In other words, missile defense plays a crucial role in our deterrent strategy.
Do you believe the Obama administration is moving the U.S. in the right direction?
The administration should significantly increase the entire Missile Defense Agency (MDA) budget to fill the holes in our missile defense system as soon as technically possible– before countries like Iran and North Korea develop missiles that can penetrate the current system. Instead, the Obama administration cut promising programs the MDA was developing to pay for certain investments. The programs they have chosen to emphasize will help make our ballistic missile defense system more effective against shorter range ballistic missiles. These are good investments, and previous administrations planned to do this, too. The problem is, the Obama administration sacrificed critical programs to pay for these investments instead of increasing the top line. The programs they cut would have given the U.S. the ability to intercept missiles right after they are launch, when they are still over enemy territory. Having this ability would deter enemies from launching the missile in the first place.
The administration also cancelled the “European Site” which would have protected the U.S. and Europe from Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) within the next several years. A recent DIA report confirms Iran may have an ICBM by 2015.
What else do readers need to know about this issue?
There is no “silver bullet’ program in our layered ballistic missile defense system. Elected officials will often make the argument that they “support missile defense” by pointing to particular programs they support, while at the same time voting for cutting or eliminating other ballistic missile defense programs. Each program defends against a particular kind of ballistic missile threat, and all the systems work together to provide a protective shield for Americans and U.S. interests. Although our system does offer the U.S. some protection against certain kinds of missiles, there are still holes, and we must continue to sustain and improve upon it.