As the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program to the U.S. homeland increases, critics of missile defense are dredging up outdated arguments about why Washington can’t protect the public. They say that the Ground-based Midcourse Defense, which was conceived to intercept hostile missiles from North Korea, is unreliable and even dangerous because it fosters the illusion that real protection is possible. In fact, tests of the currently deployed GMD interceptors show active protection really is feasible: in five out of six tests, targets mimicking the flight characteristics of ballistic threats were successfully intercepted. Even if we don’t give the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency credit for ongoing improvements being made to GMD, the test results suggest the existing system is about 80% reliable. In other words, if Pyongyang launched a nuclear warhead at each of the five biggest cities on the U.S. West Coast, most of the weapons would likely be intercepted. And since the firing doctrine for GMD assumes shooting more than one interceptor at each incoming warhead, it’s quite possible none of the warheads would get through. It sounds like the Missile Defense Agency has made major progress in countering the North Korean nuclear threat to America despite getting less than 1% of the Pentagon’s budget for homeland protection. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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