By Doug Lamborn
North Korea's saber rattling and over-the-top rhetoric is not new, but Kim Jong-un's fanatical focus on developing nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of ranging the United States and our allies should redouble our efforts to focus on missile defense. To be clear, North Korea cannot be a state with the capability to employ a nuclear weapon in the first place, but we have to prepare for all contingencies.
First, diplomacy is critical as we continue to work with our allies to rebut rhetoric and get Jon-un's regime to the negotiating table. Second, recent support by China and efforts by the United Nations Security Council to sanction and restrict access to the capital that funds Jong-un's missile program is promising. China holds the most sway with Jong-un as it is the lifeline to North Korea's depressed economy. Third, Congress must appropriately fund missile defense. Should diplomacy fail and Jong-un makes an ill-fated attempt to attack the United States or our allies, we must stand ready to provide an effective defense system.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Co-Chair of the House Missile Defense Caucus, I fully support and advocate to my colleagues the need for critical investment in missile defense. The House recently passed, with bipartisan support, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (NDAA) and James Mattis Appropriations Act. Both bills provided much needed support for missile defense programs that were consistently underfunded and neglected during the Obama administration.
In the past decade, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) suffered at 23 percent decline in their topline funding from $11 billion to $8.4 billion to the detriment of both fielded systems and ongoing research and development. This trend must stop if we are going to take missile defense seriously. MDA should be funded with a topline of no less than $10 billion.
While Jong-un attempts to ratchet up current tensions, we must remain steadfast and focused on the following areas of missile defense:
Promotion of regional defenses with our allies South Korea and Japan, including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system; the Aegis ballistic missile defense system; and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-missile system.
The Department of Defense (DoD) should continue to install and evolve the interceptors in Alaska on schedule.
Congress should continue to fund and DoD should work towards a Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) and the Multi-Object Kill Vehicle (MOKV) to address advanced enemy missile designs that may become a reality in the near future.
Further, it should continue its plans to field the updated Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) in Alaska. This program will provide the necessary discrimination for ground based interceptors to find, fix, and track an enemy missile.
Next, DoD must continue to research and develop directed energy solutions. Directed energy offers a cost effective offset to counter an adversary's expensive missile programs and offers the ability to destroy an enemy missile when at its most vulnerable stage in the boost phase.
As authorized in the House's NDAA, our future missile defense must include a space-based layer. There is no better place to track and assess an enemy's missile than in space.
Given the current pace of North Korea's missile development program, now is not the time to second guess our fail-safe to prevent an enemy missile from threatening our homeland. In the past few months, the MDA has conducted successful tests of both the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems. While I respect the views of critics to the effectiveness of missile defense tests, we cannot slow the development and deployment of these systems to satisfy criticisms. As my colleagues in the Senate prepare to debate the NDAA, I urge them to provide strong support for our collective defense from the missile threat by matching the House's funding for missile defense.