The Strategic Imperative of Ballistic Missile Defense Cooperation in the Gulf
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Thank you very much Dave for that introduction.
It is a real pleasure to meet with you today. I have been looking forward to this Seminar for some time now. As the Assistant Secretary of State, I have made U.S.-GCC cooperation on ballistic missile defense (or BMD) one of my top priorities. During the past two years, I have made six trips to the Gulf to talk to senior Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs leaders about the strategic imperative of U.S.- GCC cooperation on BMD. I plan to return to the region in early June to conduct additional discussions with senior leaders in each of the six GCC states.
I want to thank each and every one of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to come to Washington, DC. This is one of the busiest and best times to visit our nation’s capital. Thankfully, I think we have put our harsh winter behind us and with the nicer weather you can comfortably explore the city. The cherry blossoms, gifted by the Emperor of Japan, are at full bloom near the Jefferson Memorial and are a major reason why the city’s hotels are all nearly booked.
But we are here to talk about another sort of “blossoming” that I hope to see – a blossoming of BMD cooperation. I believe that an important first step towards this goal is developing a common understanding of the role that BMD can play in ensuring regional peace and security.
I’ve witnessed how discussions in an academic and not-for-attribution setting such as you will have here this week, can play a key role in developing a common understanding and even a consensus among our partners regarding the key role of BMD not only in wartime but also in crisis management. In many ways, what we intend to do here this week leverages our experience from the Nimble Titan wargame series that some of you participate in. In fact, we’ve made it a point to steal some of the Nimble Titan staff from their event taking place in Tallin, Estonia this week. I welcome them and thank them for their support.
Today, I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts, as the State Department’s chief missile defense advisor, on the United States’ continued commitment to security in the Middle East and the role of BMD.
U.S. Commitment to Missile Defense
We meet today amid a time of profound change in the region. We are experiencing perhaps an unprecedented moment of engagement and dialogue with nations around the world. At the same time, we are also acutely aware of the daily threats and anxieties felt throughout the Gulf.
The United States has a deep and abiding commitment to the security of the Gulf region. This is a commitment motivated by our common security interests, our shared economic objectives, and the enduring personal relationships we have built with your leaders over many years.
Our commitment is steadfast. In the past years, the United States has undertaken a robust series of diplomatic, military, and intelligence actions to ensure that countries or actors that seek to undermine GCC states’ security cannot and will not be permitted to do so. BMD is one of these areas.
Our recently released budget is further proof positive of our commitment to BMD.
The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget requests $9.6 billion total investment in missile defense. This includes $8.1 billion for the Missile Defense Agency and almost $38B for MDA over the Fiscal Years 2016 to 2020. Despite pressure on the DOD budget, funding for missile defense programs remains a priority.
The budget funds new initiatives in response to evolving ballistic missile capabilities and ensures our missile defenses keep pace with a rapidly evolving security environment.
Missile Defense Cooperation
Security cooperation has long stood at the core of the U.S.-Gulf partnership. Our security commitments in the Gulf are more extensive today than ever before.
The United States is committed to enhancing U.S.-GCC BMD cooperation.
We already are cooperating with our partners in the region bilaterally, and these bilateral relations will remain the bedrock of our security architecture.
We also are cooperating multilaterally such as in the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Strategic Cooperation Forum (or SCF) that first met in April of 2012.
At their most recent meeting on September 26, 2014, Secretary Kerry and his Foreign Ministry counterparts reaffirmed their intent to “Enhance GCC-U.S. security coordination, particularly on Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), continuing to move forward on development of a Gulf-wide, interoperable missile defense architecture.”
To help reach that goal, the United States designated the GCC eligible for Foreign Military Sales, laying the groundwork for our nations to address regional ballistic missile defense in a multilateral context.
That’s the same designation we’ve given NATO and the African Union, allowing the GCC to invest in shared systems for mutual defense, even as the U.S. continues a strong bilateral defense partnership with each individual GCC member. And it demonstrates our commitment to the U.S.-Gulf Partnership, and our ultimate commitment to see the Gulf become a stronger, more capable partner in confronting the many challenges to our shared interests in the region.
Other nations in other parts of the world have met the technical and political challenges of designing a regional response to the threat of ballistic missiles. Today, those countries are safer, more self-reliant, and more capable U.S. allies. The Arab States of the Gulf can and should be the next to meet this challenge.
Military and Diplomatic Coordination
But the U.S.-Gulf partnership is not based on military might alone. Advanced, interoperable systems to intercept and destroy attacking missiles must be combined with diplomatic cooperation and coordination in order to most effectively protect the interests, and the security, of the Gulf region.
Ballistic missiles can destabilize and weaken a region due to their short flight times and potentially devastating consequences. WMD armed missiles in particular can have broad consequences not only within a targeted country but within a region, as the effects of a successful attack may drift into neighboring countries.
But ballistic missiles are also a weapon of choice for an adversary that wants to gain political power and influence over its regional security environment. We have seen ballistic missile test firings used as a tool to intimidate, blackmail, or coerce a country’s neighbors to adopt a political agenda in line with the interests of the threatening nation.
The nature of the ballistic missile threat means that we must be prepared both diplomatically and militarily well before the first missile is launched.
This argues for thinking about ballistic missiles and our potential responses in a strategic context. U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense work as active partners in the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum to emphasize the need for planning, both diplomatic and military, when it comes to ballistic missile defense.
To facilitate a dialogue with our Gulf partners on these issues, President Obama obtained specific legislative authority from the U.S. Congress expanding the authority of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command to conduct integrated air and missile defense training at the U.S.-UAE Integrated Air and Missile Defense Center (IAMDC). We see the IAMDC as uniquely positioned to play a key role in advancing regional BMD cooperation.
Missile defense supports political and diplomatic activities by enhancing regional stability and by assuring leaders and populations under threat that they have a defense against attack. BMD raises the wall of deterrence by complicating an adversary’s calculus, denying them the certainty of a successful attack, and signaling determination to resist intimidation.
At a strategic level, we must continue to encourage better planning and preparation among both our military leaders and our senior diplomats. It should be our shared task to develop strategic communications plans and ensure close and effective consultations with regional partners to advance our joint security and prosperity.
Our partnership can therefore bring together the strength of our combined forces with the skill of our strategic planning. We will be much more successful in advancing our shared interests by working together than by going it alone.
And I’ll close by saying this.
The United States will continue to work closely bilaterally with each of our partners in the GCC and we must do more to strengthen multilateral BMD cooperation.
It was during my December 2013 trip to the Gulf that we first conceived of this Seminar. As I said at the beginning, I have been waiting a long time for this event to take place. I hope that when you leave here at the end of this week you will walk away wanting more and not less of this kind of discussion. I understand that the UAE and AFCENT are planning on hosting a Senior Leader Seminar in June. I think that would provide an excellent follow-up to this Seminar and I hope to speak at it during my visit to the UAE in June.
I am looking forward to hearing more about what you thought of this seminar during my upcoming visit to the region in June.
Thank you very much.