President Donald Trump plans to unveil the Defense Department’s missile defense review Jan. 17 at the Pentagon after months of delays, a senior White House official said Jan. 16.
This will be the first missile defense review issued since 2010, and reflects the “more complex, more threatening national security environment” that has emerged in the years since, the official told reporters on background Wednesday afternoon. It was originally scheduled to be released in May 2018.
Peer adversaries have been developing an expanded range of new, offensive missiles, some of which are capable of threatening the U.S. homeland as well as its forces and allies abroad, the official noted.
Russia and China have “very sophisticated arsenals” and the U.S. government will continue to rely on its nuclear deterrents to counter those countries’ new capabilities, the official said.
“Our missile defense capabilities are primarily postured to stay ahead of rogue state threats,” the official said, using the example of missile defense systems positioned in Europe to counter Iran, and noting that Russia and China are kept aware of any U.S. missile defense efforts.
The official did not make clear whether the MDR calls out North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons as a continued threat to the United States and its allies, but said it looks at the “comprehensive environment that the United States faces” and postures the country to be prepared for current and future capabilities.
It will outline the current U.S. military capabilities and make recommendations for areas of growth, as well as describe the country’s homeland and regional security posture. It takes into account the potential threat posed by ballistic missile, cruise missile and future hypersonic capabilities, the official added.
Space-related efforts will be emphasized in the missile defense review as an area of future investment, the official said, calling space “key to the next step of missile defense.”
The U.S. government is analyzing the potential of a space-based layer of sensors to provide early warning, tracking and discrimination of missiles at time of launch, and the MDR calls for continued studies on the possibility of a kinetic or directed energy-powered space-based interceptor layer that could target boost-phase missiles, the official said. It does not, however, directly call for the development or fielding of such a capability.
“That’s an area that we are studying but not one that we have made a concrete decision on fully,” the official said.
The report also considers building a third interceptor site in the continental United States to serve as a deterrent for Iran. The government has conducted environmental impact studies on three potential sites, and while no decision has been made, it is “ready to move forward if it’s determined that that’s something that would really enhance our posture with respect to Iran,” the official said.
Trump will be joined Thursday at the Pentagon by senior members of the administration and the department, to include: Vice President Mike Pence; National Security Advisor John Bolton; Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan; Army Secretary Mark Esper; Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson; Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood; Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord; Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin; and Acting DOD Chief Management Officer Lisa Hershman.
Also scheduled to be in attendance are: Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff; Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley; Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau; Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA); and Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), who served as chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces subcommittee in the 115th Congress and whose district includes Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.