A former Pentagon official provided me with this assessment of what the Biden administration’s 2023 NDAA request for missile defense will look like:
The Russians are pushing hard against hard missile defense. The Washington arms control establishment is supporting them. I would expect targeted cuts against our most important missile defense programs.
Already, there are worrisome signals about the Biden Administration’s missile defense policy. During negotiations this month in Geneva with Russian officials on the Ukraine situation, U.S. officials expressed a desire to revive the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. But the treaty has no teeth. When the treaty expired in 2019, the Trump administration refused to renew it due to rampant Russian cheating and the treaty’s failure to address China’s missile program. Further, the Biden administration’s interest in reviving the flawed INF Treaty indicates its preference for diplomacy over missile defenses to counter hostile missile systems.
A second signal may be reports last week that U.S. officials are considering killing several Trump administration-era nuclear weapon programs, such as a low-yield warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles and a new nuclear-armed cruise missile.
Congress Probably Will Not Act Until 2023
Although the Biden administration will probably not increase missile defense spending in the 2023 NDAA budget request and may propose cutting programs, this request will be dead on arrival. Congress likely intends to pass a continuing resolution to freeze defense spending at current levels due to the midterm election and a lame-duck Congress at the end of the year.
This means a likely Republican majority in the House and maybe in the Senate next year will be in a position to approve the needed investments in U.S. missile defense. And even if Republicans do not take control of the Senate, there is bipartisan support for increased spending on missile defense in the Senate Armed Services Committee that will likely continue into the next Congress.
Together, the United States and over a dozen allies have deployed thousands of capable missile defense interceptors here and abroad—from Patriot to David’s Sling, from THAAD to Iron Dome. Our nation needs leadership and sufficient investments on missile defense to meet the current and projected missile threats now gathering on the security horizon.
Fred Fleitz is Vice Chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. Previously, he served as Chief of Staff of the Trump National Security Council and as an analyst with the CIA Weapons Proliferation and Arms Control Center.