Problems with an East Coast Missile Defense Site

November 7, 2013 | 3:32 pm
Laura Grego
Research Director, Senior Scientist

For the second year, missile defense supporters in the House of Representatives are seeking funding to build a new site for the U.S. Ground Based Midcourse (GMD) missile defense system. The aim is to place interceptors at a site near the east coast, in addition to the current sites in Alaska and California, to engage a potential future missile attack from Iran.

We just posted a short background paper that explains the problems with this plan. These include:

  • the Pentagon has not asked for this money, nor has it made a decision that a new deployment site is desirable
  • the Pentagon continues to struggle to get the basic GMD technology to work reliably, so it makes little sense to deploy it at another site
  • even if these technical problems are surmounted, the system available now and in foreseeable future can at best only counter a rudimentary missile threat, one that is not accompanied by decoys and other countermeasures. Interceptors from Alaska could engage these missiles so an east coast site would not be needed.
  • against this rudimentary threat, an east coast site would not improve effectiveness, but at most would improve efficiency, allowing the United States to potentially fire fewer interceptors at an incoming missile
  • a new site would cost an estimated $3.6 billion to build and operate over the first five years, which makes little sense in the current budget-constrained environment.