Trump Admin Eyes Opportunity to Squash Iran, China, N. Korea Missile Threats

Congressional allies want wholesale revamp of U.S. missile defense systems

U.S. Army soldiers power-up a MIM-104 Patriot Missile System.
U.S. Army soldiers power-up a MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile system at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia / AP
February 8, 2017

The newly installed Trump administration is eyeing an opportunity to revamp the U.S. domestic missile defense system to combat evolving threats posed by Iran, China, North Korea, and other rogue regimes, according to senior White House officials and new congressional communication disclosing how nations across the globe are "working diligently to exploit the many gaps and seams" in America's current defenses.

Congressional allies of the Trump administration's national security vision recently petitioned the White House to allocate funds needed to rebuild and update the country's missile defense systems, which have been beset by problems and can no longer defend against the latest missile technology.

Iran's latest test of ballistic missile technology has only reinforced the belief in Congress that something must be done to secure the American homeland, according to a team of nearly 30 leading lawmakers led by Rep. Trent Franks (R., Ariz.), co-chair of the House's missile defense caucus.

With threats from rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea evolving—and illicit procurement networks between them growing—the new administration faces the threat of a direct attack on the United States.

One senior official on the White House's National Security Council told the Free Beacon that the administration supports these efforts and views them as "common sense."

"The president signaled repeatedly on the campaign trail that he's interested in this, and that he understands both the offensive and defensive capability," the official said. "Given the number of missile tests we've seen, obviously, from North Korea and Iran over the last year this is just common sense."

The official specifically highlighted the threat from Electromagetic Pulse attacks, or EMP attacks, which could cripple the country's infrastructure. These sorts of attacks represent a "major concern" for the White House, the source said.

Some in Congress have been concerned that the new administration would only work to counter threats from Iran and North Korea, while ignoring the ongoing missile buildup taking place in other countries around the globe.

Franks and other lawmakers who petitioned the Trump administration late last week expressed concern the White House "may focus on only protecting against a missile-based attack 'from states like Iran and North Korea,' per the White House website," according to a copy of the letter.

"As you know," the lawmakers write, "our near-peer competitors are working diligently to exploit the many gaps and seams in our missile defense architecture, and continue to modernize their strategic weapons while the United States allows our aging missile defense system to fall behind this evolving threat."

The lawmakers seek to ensure "President Trump and his national security team understand the extraordinary opportunity they have to potentially 'leapfrog' the ballistic missile threat posed by our most advanced near-peer competitors," according to the letter.

Previous administrations have failed to fund adequately a range of missile defense systems being developed, according to the lawmakers, who are looking for greater funding for these programs in the Trump administration's upcoming budget.

"By finally investing the appropriate resources into promising missile defense capabilities such as directed energy, fully supporting our next generation programs, and building the infrastructure in space and on the ground for a more robust missile defense system, the Trump administration can put its stamp on an American missile defense architecture which will protect the U.S. and our allies from the world's deadliest weapons for years to come," the letter states.

The most recent National Defense Authorization Act, which funds all American defense priorities, mandates a wholesale refurbishing of America's missile defense systems.

"Rather than guarding against on a 'limited' threat, it is now the policy of the United States to 'maintain and improve an effective, robust, layered missile defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States, allies, deployed forces, and capabilities against the developing and increasingly complex ballistic missile threat,'" the lawmakers informed the White House in the letter.

"Building a robust missile defense architecture, capable of defending against any threat from any nation, will be a legacy no 'pen and phone' can undo, and Americans will live safe and free for generations to come that's to the missile defense architecture built by the Trump Administration."

Once these advanced systems are in place, future governments will be unable to remove them.

"The significance of all these programs is that, once they are developed and built, there is no reversing them—the technology and infrastructure will be there," the lawmakers write. "Once the technology is mastered, the concrete poured, and the satellites deployed, the architecture is there to stay, regardless of which party controls Congress and the White House."

Lawmakers are advocating the Trump administration work to deploy multi-mission space sensors capable of detecting even the most advanced missile technology before it reaches America.

They also want construction to start on an east coast missile defense site that would "shore up our missile defense architecture and further protect our homeland from the Iranian missile threat," according to the letter.

Additionally, Congress seeks to boost funding for the Multi-Object Kill Vehicle program, which can detect enemy warheads, including those with decoy technology.