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Statement on Missile Defense Before the Senate Armed Services Committee

Statement by William J. Lynn III , Washington, D.C., Tuesday, June 16, 2009

JUNE 16, 2009



I am here to discuss the Administration’s missile defense policy, the changing strategic environment in which we expect to field and utilize missile defenses, and some programmatic choices and their policy implications that have been made so far. While U.S. missile defense policy and planning is currently under review, we have established a broad set of principles which will serve to guide and shape our overall approach to missile defense. Before turning to these principles I would like to provide some broader context about the threat and the Department’s ongoing review efforts.

Changing Strategic Environment

The United States faces current and long-term security challenges that require a “re-balancing” of U.S. defense priorities and strategy. Specific security challenges the United States faces include violent extremist movements, the spread of WMD and their delivery systems, rising powers with sophisticated weapons, and failed or failing states. Among these, the proliferation of WMD and ballistic missiles is particularly troubling because it demonstrates one aspect of the complexity of what Secretary Gates has termed “hybrid threats” – an environment characterized by state and non-state adversaries using a combination of conventional and high-end capabilities in asymmetric ways.

In particular, North Korea and Iran pose serious nuclear and missile proliferation concerns for the United States and other nations. In President Obama’s April 5th speech in Prague, he reiterated the threat posed by North Korea’s missile tests and emphasized the threat from Iranian ballistic missiles, stating, “Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies.”

Moreover, the risk and dangers from missile proliferation are growing problems. As the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, General Maples, recently testified to this committee, “the threat posed by ballistic missile delivery systems is likely to increase while growing more complex over the next decade. Current trends indicate that adversary ballistic missile systems with advanced liquid- or solid-propellant propulsion systems are becoming more flexible, mobile, survivable, reliable and accurate and possess greater range. Pre-launch survivability is also likely to increase as potential adversaries strengthen their denial and deception measures and increasingly base their missiles on mobile sea- and land-based platforms. Adversary nations are increasingly adopting technical and operational countermeasures to defeat missile defenses.”

Ballistic Missile Defense Review

The Department recently initiated the Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR), which is closely linked to the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) as well as two other Congressionally-mandated reviews on the U.S. nuclear posture and space posture.

The BMDR is reviewing all aspects of missile defense plans, programs, operations, and requirements—as well as management and oversight of missile defense in the Department. The BMDR is just getting underway and no decisions have yet been made. Several broad principles will guide our efforts: we will focus on rogue states and theater threats, prepare for emerging threats, ensure our missile defenses are effective, and utilize missile defense to pursue international cooperation.

Rogue States and Theater Threats

U.S. missile defense plans and programs will focus on rogue state and theater threats. We are not seeking to defend against the strategic forces from Russia or China. Instead, we are building a small number of interceptors capable of defeating a limited number of long-range ballistic missiles, in order to protect the United States from coercion or attack.

We are committed to a continued effective defense of the United States against rogue threats, including North Korea and, if it continues down its current path, Iran. As this committee knows well, North Korea has recently tested a nuclear weapon and continues to expand its ballistic missile capability. For example, North Korea continued its development of Taepo Dong 2, which could be used for Space Launch or as an Inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). Although its most recent attempt at using this missile for space launch failed, North Korea continues to demonstrate determination to develop an ICBM. North Korea continues to work on other missile programs including Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM).

Iran views its ballistic missiles as an integral part of its strategy to increase its regional influence, deter , and, if necessary, retaliate against the United States and regional powers. On 20 May 2009, Iran announced the successful flight test of a 2000 km Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM), which is able to range both Israel and central Europe. Just this year, Iran also successfully completed a space launch which shows progress in some technologies relevant to the future development of ICBMs. Although these rogue states continue to expand their ballistic missile capabilities, the threat remains simple.

We also remain committed to a more effective theater missile defense that includes continued and increased cooperation with allies. Short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles pose a real danger to our forces as well as to the territory and populations of our friends and allies. To better protect them, we will increase the capabilities available to the warfighter by fielding more of our most capable shorter-range and mobile missile defense systems. For example, we added an additional $900 million to field more systems such as THAAD, Aegis BMD ships, and SM-3 interceptors for defense of deployed forces, friends and allies.

Preparing for Emerging Threats

While we focus on the current ballistic missile threat we must also prepare for the emerging ones. To that end, we will continue to invest in critical upgrades for our National Missile Defense systems. We will also continue to invest in research and development to pursue new and more effective technologies for theater missile threats. One such technology that may hold promise as the threat develops is Early Intercept, which targets a missile (before apogee) in order to successfully destroy the missile and allows additional intercept opportunities, which may reduce the number of interceptors used.

Ensuring Effective Missile Defenses

The President has made clear that we will move forward with missile defenses that are affordable, proven, and responsive to the threat. This means a renewed emphasis on robust testing. It is imperative that we demonstrate the maturity, reliability, and effectiveness of our missile defense systems. We also need measures to ensure and demonstrate that missile defense testing is conducted under operationally realistic conditions.

The pursuit of effective missile defenses resulted in our decision to terminate the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program and to return the Airborne Laser (ABL) to a technology demonstration program. These troubled programs repeatedly failed to meet their cost and schedule objectives and therefore could not meet our requirement of being effective.

International Missile Defense Cooperation

The fourth broad principle guiding our thinking on missile defense is to ensure we undertake activities that foster international defense cooperation relationships. The United States currently cooperates on missile defense with several nations across the globe, from Europe to the Pacific Rim to the Middle East. On the international level, two items in particular are the subject of special attention: missile defense in Europe and missile defense cooperation with Russia. No final decisions have been made regarding missile defense in Europe. However, the U.S. approach to missile defense in Europe will be to seek cooperation with international partners – to include Russia -- in order to reduce the threat from Iran, while preserving the option to deploy missile defense systems that evolve as the threat evolves. As the President stated in Prague:

“As long as the threat from Iran persists, we intend to go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe at this time will be removed.”

The United States is committed to working with Russia on a range of issues, including missile defense. Missile defense cooperation with Russia has been a consistent U.S. goal since the 1990s. Secretary Gates has said that he believes there is real potential for cooperation on missile defense and a genuine interest in it from Russia. The United States will work to identify new areas where our two countries could advance our missile defense cooperation. For example, there are Russian radars near Iran that would provide helpful early warning detection in the case of an Iranian ballistic missile launch. Working with Russia in areas where we have common security concerns is in the interest of both countries. This topic will be an important area of discussion during the upcoming U.S.-Russia summit in July.

Over the years we have reached out to allies and friends and established a number of important missile defense relationships. In some instances, missile defense is now a key Alliance capability for our mutual defense. In other cases, we are pursuing security cooperation programs for the benefit of the acquiring nation. In yet other cases, we have established cooperative engagement programs to identify and develop promising missile defense-related technologies and information. Missile defense can also serve as a catalyst for transformation in areas outside of the missile defense mission area, further enhancing our Alliances and promoting additional cooperation. Going forward, cooperative bilateral and multilateral missile defense cooperation will continue to be a major feature of U.S. relations with allies, friends, and new partners.


In conclusion, ballistic missile defense is an important part of our current and future national defense strategy, and must be fully integrated into the broader deterrence and alliance considerations that inform this strategy. Missile defenses play a key role in both responding to current threats and hedging against future contingencies. Internationally, missile defense offers opportunities for cooperation with allies, friends, and new partners on common security concerns. As we move forward with missile defense plans and programs, the Department of Defense will ensure they are affordable, effective, and responsive to the risks and actual threats that confront the United States and our friends and allies.

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