National Security Expert: US Needs to Fix ‘Gaps’ in Satellite Missile Defense System

By Jose R. Gonzalez | March 24, 2016 | 11:29am EDT
Hudson Institute fellow Rebeccah Heinrichs. ( Gonzalez)


( -- A national security expert says the U.S. needs to fix the “gaps” in its satellite-based missile defense system to help thwart potential threats from Russia and China.

Rebeccah Heinrichs, a Hudson Institute fellow, said Thursday during a panel discussion hosted by the Heritage Foundation that although the United States has become “incredibly dependent” on its satellite defense system, it has also left the satellites “vulnerable” to Russian and Chinese ballistic missiles.

“Because our system has remained limited and because we have argued ad nauseum, Republicans and Democrats both, that none of our systems are meant to degrade or affect Russia, in particular, that we’ve allowed these gaps - these technology gaps - there, which the Russians and Chinese are happy to exploit," Heinrichs said.

"For instance, if you look at what they're doing, their direct ascent ballistic missiles. Our satellites - we have become, more than any other spacefaring nation. so incredibly dependent on our satellites. And we thought for the longest time that because they're in very, very high orbits...that they're safe, because they're so far away.

"But as we become more reliant on them, without defending them, that has created a tease, a temptation, I think, for the Russians and the Chinese to build these offensive systems in order to hold these [satellite] systems at risk,” she stated.

"So you can see that it was not ... a strong defensive system that was provocative, it was actually in fact because they were vulnerable that was provocative,” Heinrichs pointed out.

Late last year, China and Russia reportedly succeeded in launching missiles with the capabilities of taking out U.S. satellites.

The first ground-based interceptor missile, designed to destroy incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles before they reach U.S. airspace, is lowered into its silo at Fort Greely, Alaska on July 22, 2004. (Dept. of Defense)

To thwart these threats, Heinrichs proposed expanding the European Phased Adaptive Approach missile defense, increasing Ground-Based Interceptor anti-ballistic missiles in the United States, deploying Long Range Discrimination Radar, and adding more radar facilities on the East Coast of the U.S.

“Do all of these things and do it without apology to the Russians and the Chinese,” Heinrichs urged.

The panel discussion, entitled “Missile Defense: More Critical Than Ever,” was held on the eve of the 33rd anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s speech from the Oval Office calling upon the scientific community “to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.”

“We need to build the systems to defend against the United States and our allies, see the threats as they develop, and we need to no longer entertain this idea that by being strong that it’s destabilizing, because that’s just not what’s borne out over time,” Heinrichs added.

During the question and answer session, asked Heinrichs about the United States’ continued participation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) following Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s questioning of the need for the 67-year-old, 28-member military alliance.

“NATO is one of the United States’ most important alliances, if not the most important,” she replied. “We already have one actor who is trying to destroy NATO, and that’s [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”

“What I’ve tried to argue and explain to critics over the years is that alliances are critically important. NATO is critically important for the stability of not just Eastern Europe, but for just the United States as well,” Heinrichs stated.

“It’s really hard to overstate that alliance, especially as Russia continues to become more aggressive in the region.”

Related: Rocket Launched in California to Test Missile Defense

Related: How the Obama Administration Changed Our Missile Defense Strategy

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