WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump heralded a new era in U.S. missile defense on Thursday, saying space-based missile defenses will be built to protect against adversaries’ hypersonic and cruise missiles.
The need for a new missile defense strategy due to the threat of rogue states was a recurring theme in the announcement, and in the recently released Defense Department Missile Defense Review. North Korea and Iran were mentioned by name as potential threats, and Trump lashed out at the defunct Iran nuclear deal. The review adds to that list, highlighting Syria and Yemen, as well as Hezbollah and the Houthi movement, as potential adversaries.
China and Russia, however, were also a focus of the Pentagon review even as an anxiety mounts over the development of increasingly advanced hypersonic missiles by both countries.
Speaking at the Pentagon, Trump emphasized the need to compete with what he called “bad players” whose arsenals are “getting bigger and stronger.” Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan stressed that the U.S. needs to not just keep pace with growing threats, but outpace them.Trump agreed that bold technological advancement is necessary.
“The United States cannot simply build more of the same or make only incremental improvements,” he said.
The new missile defense strategy, which experts have compared to the Reagan administration’s “Star Wars” missile defense initiative in scope and complexity, provides for new interceptor installations in the coming years, as well greater integration of offensive and defensive capabilities.
Additionally, Trump promised in his speech a space-based defense system as part of the new initiative, along with an increased focus on defending against cruise missiles and hypersonic missiles.
Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin, speaking at a press briefing after the speech, elaborated on the need for a new generation of defensive technologies, particularly the space-based sensor layer mentioned by Trump.
“Especially the Chinese but also Russia have developed regional hypersonic threat capabilities that we really must counter,” Griffin said. “It’s not all about ICBMs.”
The role of U.S. allies in strengthening missile defense systems was a frequent topic. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood said that allies would be an integral part of the U.S. strategy going forward.
“We’re going to be with NATO 100 percent,” Trump said, despite past statements expressing animosity toward U.S. allies and NATO, s
However, hestressed that NATO countries should pay “their fair share” and that they were “under notice.”
Nonetheless, Trump said that the plan directs the Defense Department to prioritize the sale of U.S. missile defense technology to allies and that U.S. partners would be part of the new missile defense strategy.
“We will also leverage our network of partnerships to share early warning and tracking information and detect missile launches as early as possible,” he said. “Today marks the beginning of a new era in our missile defense program.”