President Donald Trump's $686 billion defense budget for 2019 would increase missile defense spending by more than 25 percent over the Pentagon's 2018 request, underscoring the administration's concern about North Korea's expanding ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
The Pentagon on Monday proposed to allocate $12.9 billion to the country's overall missile defense, including about $9.9 billion for the Missile Defense Agency. The figure is $2 billion more than MDA's previous request.
Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist told reporters the budget request reflects calls in the National Defense Strategy to focus investments on "layered missile defense and disruptive capabilities" to defend against theater missile threats and the ballistic missile threat from Pyongyang.
North Korea claimed in November it had successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, capable of striking anywhere on the U.S. mainland, adding urgency to calls by defense officials to repair cracks in the nation's missile defense system.
The United States today relies on ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California along with a floating sea-based radar system to detect and destroy missiles headed toward the homeland, but both are limited in operability.
The 2019 budget calls for an increase to the number of missile interceptors from 44 to 64, with the 20 new interceptors to be based in Alaska, but the ground-based system is unreliable. The interceptors have failed to hit their target in 50 percent of tests.
The Pentagon also requested funding for the Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the Navy's sea-based Aegis system. Though the Aegis radar has proved successful in tests, it was designed primarily to defend against short-range targets and has only been tested once against an intermediate-range target.
The budget also urges greater investment in research for programs to defend against hypersonic weapons recently tested by China and Russia.
Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month the United States has forgone its "technical advantage in hypersonics."