Pentagon to review US missile defence programmes

WASHINGTON • The Pentagon is ready to deliver a top-to-bottom review of the United States military's missile defence programmes to the White House by the end of the year, taking a broad look at new technologies, basing options and potentially billions in new spending, according to defence officials.

The report promises to be the Trump administration's first stab at reshaping a critical area of defence spending for years to come.

It also comes as Mr Trump charts a hawkish course towards both Iran and North Korea.

The regime in Pyongyang is much closer to developing intercontinental ballistic missiles than Teheran, and it is thought to be within a year of placing a nuclear warhead on one of its long-range missiles.

As the threat of war inches closer, however, the generals at the Pentagon are facing the reality that many of their missile defence systems are ageing, leading to reliability issues and raising questions over how effective they might be against a potential attack.

Those concerns were reflected in a US$440 million (S$600 million) emergency funding request the Pentagon sent to Congress last month, asking lawmakers to pump more money into missile defence upgrades, new interceptor silos, radar systems, and classified satellite capabilities.

Defence officials told Foreign Policy magazine the review will not only focus on existing programmes, but also take stock of new threats posed by Iran and North Korea, and the changing nuclear and ballistic missile posture of both Russia and China.

Iran is emerging as a particular focus of the review. US President Donald Trump earlier this month refused to certify that Iran was living up to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Western nations, and Iranian leaders have refused to back off plans to continue work on long-range missile programmes.

"Part of the (Ballistic Missile Defence Review) is to try and figure out how much of a threat Iran is, and what more we may need to do beyond what we have right now," one Pentagon official with knowledge of the planning told Foreign Policy.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2017, with the headline 'Pentagon to review US missile defence programmes'. Print Edition | Subscribe