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AIAA Conference on Missile Defense

As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn, III, Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, Washington, D.C., Monday, March 22, 2010

Thank you Pat.

Thanks for your leadership in this important area. You are doing a phenomenal job designing the program and directing the resources.

I first came into the Executive Branch in 1993 at the start of the Clinton administration. I was coming out of the Congress working for Senator Kenney’s staff. The precursor to this conference was really the first opportunity I had to give a major speech. It was similar to this—a thousand or so people in the audience. I had actually, working for Senator Kenney, written quite a few speeches. But I hadn’t given nearly as many.

And right up until that point, I thought writing speeches was the hard part.

The experience gave me great respect for Senator Kennedy’s great skill in public speaking, which I won’t pretend to match.

Let me outline the Administration’s priorities on missile defense.

As you know, the Department has just conducted its first ever comprehensive review of ballistic missile defense strategy, policy, and capabilities. The review illustrates a key point: we are at a historic moment in missile defense.

Fifty years of concerted investment by our scientific and military establishment was capped—in this past decade—by a burst of stunning technological progress in both sensor and system integration.

The result is a series of systems that provide demonstrable protection against a range of missile threats.

We have deployed a successful hit-to-kill interceptor that protects the homeland against limited attack. And a combination of land and sea-based systems provide real protection against both intercontinental and shorter range missiles.

A technological feat that previously seemed impossible is now a cornerstone of our defense.

How this remarkable transformation came about is worth considering.

The advent of ballistic missiles in World War II was immediately recognized as a threat with long-term implications.

As early as 1946, the Army Air Force initiated two study programs, called Wizard and Thumper, to design an antiballistic missile. But for much of the next fifty years, and especially the period from 1960 to 1990, the debate over missile defense became one of the most controversial in U.S. defense policy.

As the lines of the Cold War hardened, and as the Soviet Union began its massive build up to gain strategic nuclear supremacy, missile defenses against large attacks came to be seen by many experts as impractical.

But more than impractical, the effort to build large-scale missile defenses was as destabilizing to the strategic balance between two superpowers. Simply put, large-scale missile defenses might make a nuclear first strike less suicidal and therefore more thinkable.

The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty addressed this concern by codifying the principle of Mutual Assured Destruction. Yet MAD was deeply contentious, as was the ABM Treaty. A passionate camp of opponents argued that we should not rely on mutual annihilation for deterrence if we could rely on deterrence by denial.

But the nation was not prepared to accept a potentially de-stabilizing offense-defense competition with the USSR—a competition that would go on in seeming perpetuity. Nor was it prepared to stake its defense on a system of nuclear-tipped interceptors, which might have destroyed in-bound missiles but would have been otherwise catastrophic.

Controversy over missile defense erupted anew in the 1980s, when President Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative. SDI led to large investments in missile defense but no deployed systems. Moreover, it stoked rather than ended the debate over strategic stability. A program of missile defense that was technologically feasible and politically palatable seemed perpetually out of reach.

Three things have broken the stalemate over missile defense.

First, the end of the cold war narrowed the threat that missile defenses are meant to defeat.

The daunting prospect of defending against thousands of incoming Soviet nuclear warheads has given way to a smaller challenge: defeating a limited ballistic missile attack by rogue states, or an isolated accidental launch.

Second, events over the past two decades have raised public awareness of missile threats, particularly in regional conflicts.

In the first Gulf War, SCUD attacks by Iraqi forces—and our attempts to defeat them with PATRIOT interceptors—showed the importance of missile defense to our conventional military strategy. The Administration and Congress both recognized that theater missile threats were a harbinger of the future. Seeing PATRIOT batteries in action helped renew public support for continued research and development in missile defense.

As the 1990’s progressed, so did our recognition of missile threats around the world.

In 1998, North Korea tested its first long-range missile, leaving open the possibility that the U.S. homeland could some day be targeted by a rogue state. The geopolitical uncertainty of the early 90s was gradually superseded by a world in which the threats we faced became more clearly defined.

Third, thanks to the continuing efforts of many of the people in this room, our technology has improved significantly.

We have developed more capable radars. We have successfully intercepted ICBM reentry vehicles with ground-based interceptors. And the SM-3 has had multiple successful intercepts.

These developments have helped underwrite a historic shift away from the divisive debates of the 1980s.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle understand the importance—and the practicality—of missile defense. Today, we have a strong bipartisan consensus that supports missile defense and its role in our national security strategy.

North Korea continues to develop its ICBM-class Taepo Dong II. And Iran is at work on a space launch vehicle that could provide the basis for a long-range ICBM. Both could someday threaten the United States itself.

But the most immediate threat is ballistic missiles from regional actors.

That threat is growing both quantitatively and qualitatively. Systems that could some day be deployed against our forces are becoming more accurate and harder to defeat, while attaining greater ranges.

In view of these troubling developments, the Department undertook our first ever Ballistic Missile Defense Review. Released in February, it identifies six major priorities that will shape our approach to missile defense.

I will review each of them briefly.

1. The United States will continue to defend the homeland against the threat of limited ballistic missile attack.

With currently deployed capabilities, we can defend the homeland against a limited strike both now and for the foreseeable future.

The review affirms that maintaining this capability is a top priority.

It is important to note that homeland missile defense remains focused on regional actors such as North Korea and Iran. The Administration does not intend to affect the strategic balance with Russia or China.

2. The United States will defend against regional missile threats to U.S. forces, and our allies and partners.

The threat posed by short- and medium-range missiles has dramatically increased. The United States has made significant progress in fielding defenses against these threats, but more is needed. To counter the regional threat, the review concludes that we need to devote additional resources to theater missile defense. The security of our deployed troops, and our allies, depend upon this capability.

3. Before new capabilities are deployed, they must undergo testing that enables assessment under realistic operational conditions.

Over the past decade, we have learned that early deployment can undermine the role of flight-testing in improving the performance of missile technology. Operational facilities are not always equipped, or in the right geographic locations, to conduct rigorous flight-tests. The lack of meaningful flight-tests, undertaken in realistic conditions, compromises a key tool for advancing knowledge about system performance.

It is therefore imperative that we demonstrate the maturity, reliability, and effectiveness of our missile defense systems before they are deployed.

4. The commitment to new capabilities must be fiscally sustainable over the long term.

At a time when we face many pressing budget priorities, deploying cost-effective technology is the best way to responsibly advance our security. Accounting for the long-term costs of all of our weapons systems—including missile defense—will ensure we budget adequately and responsibly to maintain our defenses.

5. U.S. ballistic missile defense capabilities must be flexible enough to adapt as threats change.

As the Missile Defense Review notes, we will employ a “phased adaptive approach” to our regional missile defense. Building capabilities that are mobile and modular ensures we can successfully adapt as the threat evolves, and our own technology advances.

6. The United States will lead expanded international efforts for missile defense.

As we look ahead, we will work with allies and partners to strengthen regional deterrence architectures. This will entail deploying our capabilities and making them work alongside those of others.

Our regional security relationships are part of the President’s focus on strengthening alliances. He is committed to using both hard and soft power to achieve U.S. goals. Missile defense is an important aspect of our regional partnerships.

In sum, our missile defense posture redirects resources to address near-term regional missile threats, while also sustaining and enhancing our ability to defend the homeland against a limited long-range attack.

The vigorous pursuit of missile defense described in the review is backed up by the President’s FY 2011 budget request. The base budget includes $9.9 billion for missile defense—almost $700 million more than last year.

With this funding, we are developing capabilities that enhance missile defense programs, particularly those intended to defend deployed forces, allies, and friends against regional threats. These programs include continued conversion of Aegis ships to a ballistic missile defense role. They include additional THAAD missiles and components.

The budget also begins the Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense of Europe. This will involve the deployment of proven systems like Aegis ballistic missile defenses, the SM-3 missile, and the TPY-2 radar.

We are fielding all of these capabilities in an austere fiscal climate. The President has announced a spending freeze on domestic agencies. Yet for the second year in a row, he has increased the Department of Defense’s budget.

President Obama has made a strategic choice to continue funding modest growth in the military and in other national security agencies. At a time when we are fighting two wars and facing threats, budget increases are needed to protect our national security. This real growth in spending will help bring stability to missile defense programs and ensure that R&D accounts are not mortgaged to pay for operational needs.

Ballistic missile defense, as I have just described, is crucial to defending our homeland, our deployed forces, and our allies.

The ballistic missile review is a landmark document. But it cannot be read apart from the Quadrennial Defense Review, which describes even broader ways missile defense will help support our overall defense strategy.

I would like to highlight three of those ways.

First, effective missile defense will help strengthen our regional deterrence architectures against states seeking nuclear capabilities in defiance of the international community.

The United States is committed to working with its allies and partners to strengthen deterrence of these states. The phased, adaptive approach to regional missile defenses that I’ve mentioned is integral to this effort. Together with conventional and nuclear deterrence, missile defenses will help persuade defiant states that the United States and its allies cannot be coerced militarily.

Second, as the QDR describes, we confront a security environment full of asymmetric threats.

Today, even weak states and terrorists have access to sophisticated and deadly weapons.

North Korea has developed a nuclear program. And they are seeking ever more sophisticated delivery vehicles. Iran may have embarked upon a similar path. Even Hezbollah now possess a limited short-range ballistic missile capability—a capability that was once the province of sovereign states alone.

Our defense strategy must counter these asymmetric threats, whether they come from state or non-state actors. Regional missile defense capabilities are a critical part of addressing these threats.

Third, potential adversaries are planning to employ ballistic missiles in anti-access tactics.

Like asymmetric threats, anti-access tactics are designed to offset our conventional dominance. The proliferation of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles will put U.S. forces on land and at sea at increasing risk of ballistic missile attack. This risk could push our forces further from the battlespace, compromising our ability to bring our conventional superiority to bear.

The credibility of our security guarantees to allies and to partners—especially in the Middle East and East Asia—depends on our ability to project power despite these threats.

The reality is that we have entered a new and more complex era of hybrid threats, in which high-tech and low-tech weapons are being wielded by state and non-state actors alike.

The history of ballistic missile development actually contains a striking example of how high and low tech capabilities can be married together to mount a surprise attack.

The year was 1944. The Germans were using the first ballistic missile, the V-2s, against Britain. Plans for a longer-range missile were in the works. The next variant of the V-2 was designed to fly more than 3,000 miles.

Had the war lasted longer, the Wehrmacht may have been able to hit New York.

But the Germans had a second plan.

In a desperate attempt to attack targets in the U.S. with existing capabilities, they launched Project Laffarenz. What the Germans lacked in range they tried to make up for in inventiveness.

The plan was to use U-boats to tow a battery of V-2s across the Atlantic. Once within striking distance of the East Coast, the V-2 carrying containers would be flooded with water, righting launch tubes. The Germans got as far as building a carrying container at the Baltic port at Elbing before the allied assault stopped any deployment.

Although Project Laffarenz did not come to fruition, it illustrates how our adversaries will always be reaching for new and ingenious ways to cause us harm.

Their tactics may make straightforward use of weapons systems we are prepared to defend against. But they may also marry high and low technologies in unexpected combinations, forcing us to quickly adapt.

That is why we are placing an emphasis on adaptability in missile defense, and in other areas.

As the QDR notes, “we have learned through painful experience that the wars we fight are seldom the wars that we would have planned.”

So we must broaden our military capabilities, including missile defense, to deal with a wide range of threats.

When considering the history of missile defense, and the contentious debates that surrounded it for so many decades, I think we have made astonishing progress in doctrine and in technology.

Since I last spoke to this group in the early 1990s, our capabilities have taken us from an era in which the term Star Wars was used derisively to one in which our actual weapons systems resemble science fiction.

As a result of this progress, the high-pitch partisan debate over whether to invest in missile defense is no longer with us. Instead, there is a growing conversation about how best to invest our missile defense resources.

Ballistic missile defense is without question an important part of our current and future defense strategy.

We are committed to developing new missile technologies to their fullest.

We are moving forward with missile defenses that are affordable, effective, and responsive to the risks and threats that the United States and our allies face.

With your help, we will be successful in bringing even greater levels of protection to our fellow citizens at home and our forces abroad.

Thank you. 

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