Fact Sheet: Defending America and Its Allies Against Ballistic Missile Attack

October 23, 2007

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile

Today, President Bush addressed the National Defense University to give an update on the progress of efforts to defend America from ballistic missile attack, including the need for a missile defense system in Europe. The greatest threat facing our Nation in the 21st Century is the danger of terrorist networks or terrorist states armed with weapons of mass destruction. One of the most important defensive measures we have taken is the deployment of new capabilities to defend America from ballistic missile attack.

  • America faces a growing ballistic missile threat. In 1972, just nine countries had ballistic missiles. Today, that number has grown to 27 and it includes hostile regimes with ties to terrorists.
  • When the President took office, the United States had no capability to defend the American people against long-range ballistic missile attack, but we have since deployed new capabilities. In 2001, the President announced our intention to move beyond the ABM Treaty and deploy missile defenses to protect the American people, U.S. forces abroad, and our allies around the world against limited attacks. He also pledged that as we built these defenses, America would undertake significant reductions in nuclear weapons and establish a new approach to deterrence that would leave behind the adversarial legacy of the Cold War and allow us to prepare for the threats of the 21st Century.
  • The next step is to take a missile defense system that has passed demanding tests in the Pacific theater, and deploy elements of it to Europe - so we can defend America and our NATO allies from attacks emanating from the Middle East.

We Must Deploy A Missile Defense System To Defend Europe

Iran is pursuing the technology that could be used to produce nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles of increasing range that could deliver them. Last November, Iran conducted military exercises in which it launched ballistic missiles capable of striking Israel and Turkey, as well as American troops based in the Persian Gulf.

  • Our intelligence community assesses that, with continued foreign assistance, Iran could develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. and all of Europe before 2015. If it chooses to do so, and the international community does not take steps to prevent it, it is possible Iran could have this capability. Iranian officials have declared they are developing missiles with a range of 1,200 miles, which would give them the capability to strike many of our NATO allies, including Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and possibly Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia.

We must deploy a missile defense system to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat. This system will be limited in scope - a system made up of ten ground-based interceptors located in Poland, and an X-Band tracking radar located in the Czech Republic. Such a system would have the capacity to defend countries in Europe that would be at risk from long-range attack from the Middle East. We are also working with NATO on developing defenses against short- and medium-range attacks from the Middle East.

  • The system is not designed to defend against an attack from Russia. The missile defenses we envision would be easily overwhelmed by Russia's nuclear arsenal - the system is intended to deter countries that would threaten the United States with ballistic missile attack, and the U.S. does not consider Russia such a country.
  • We are inviting Russia to join us in the cooperative effort to defend Russia, Europe, and the United States against an emerging threat that affects us all. For his part, President Putin has offered the use of radar facilities in Azerbaijan and southern Russia. We believe these sites could be included as part of a wider threat monitoring system that could lead to an unprecedented level of strategic cooperation between our two countries.

To Keep Our Nation Safe, Congress Needs To Fully Fund Missile Defense Programs

We are investing in the next generation of missile defenses, which defend our citizens and strengthen our deterrence. Missile defense strengthens our counter-proliferation efforts by reducing incentives to build ballistic missiles and helping dissuade nations from developing nuclear weapons.

  • Congress should fully fund these programs, but instead Congress has:
    • Cut our request for missile defenses in Europe by $139 million, which could delay this deployment for a year or more and undermine our allies who are working with us to deploy such a system on their soil.
    • Eliminated $51 million from the Airborne Laser program, a critical effort that will allow us to intercept missiles in the boost-stage of flight, when they are still over the country that launched them.
    • Slashed $50 million from the Multiple Kill Vehicle program that will help us defeat both the incoming warhead and the decoys deployed to overcome our defenses.
    • Cut $50 million from the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, a constellation of space satellites that can help us more effectively detect and track ballistic missiles headed for our country.

The Effort To Develop Ballistic Missile Defense Is Part Of A Broader Effort To Move Beyond The Cold War And Establish A New Deterrence Framework For The 21st Century

Today, our adversaries are terrorist states and terrorist networks who might not be deterred by our nuclear forces, so we need a new approach. This approach combines deep reductions in offensive nuclear forces with new advanced conventional capabilities, and defenses to protect free people from nuclear blackmail or attack.

  • In 2001, the President directed the Defense Department to achieve a credible deterrent with the lowest number of nuclear weapons consistent with our national security needs, including with our obligation to our allies. These reductions were eventually codified in the Moscow Treaty, which commits the United States and Russia to reduce operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 within five years from now.
  • Since the Moscow Treaty took effect, the United States has retired all of our Peacekeeper ICBMs, and reduced our operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads from more than 6,000 when the President took office to fewer than 3,800 today. When the rest of the reductions we have set in motion are completed, the total U.S. nuclear stockpile will be one-quarter its size at the end of the Cold War - the lowest level since the Eisenhower Administration.

As we reduce our nuclear arsenal, we are investing in advanced conventional capabilities. These include new unmanned aerial combat vehicles, and next generation long-range precision weapons that allow us to strike our enemies quickly, at great distances, without using nuclear weapons.

The Administration Is Delivering On Its Pledge To Defend America From The Threat Of Ballistic Missile Attack.

  1. The President withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This 30-year-old agreement was designed for a Soviet Union threat that no longer existed in 2002, and was constraining our efforts to develop and deploy missile defense. While Russia did not agree with our withdrawal, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that the decision "does not pose a threat to Russia," and announced his country would join the U.S. in making historic reductions in our deployed offensive nuclear arsenals.
  2. The Administration made missile defense operational, while continuing our research and development efforts. By the end of 2004, the Nation had a rudimentary capability in place to defend against limited missile attacks by rogue states or accidental launch. As new technologies come online, we continue to add to this system, making it increasingly capable, and moving us closer to the day we can intercept ballistic missiles of all ranges, in every stage of flight.
    • Our military commanders believe we now have a credible system in place that can provide the American people with a measure of protection against the threats emanating from Northeast Asia. Last month, the Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Northern Command conducted its 30th successful "hit to kill" test since 2001.
  1. The Administration reached out to involve other nations in missile defense, creating a truly international effort to help protect free nations against the threat of ballistic missile attack. Since 2001, we have worked closely with countries such as Britain, Israel, Italy, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and others on missile defense.