Taking Stock of U.S. Policy on Ballistic Missile Defense

Mallory Stewart
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference
London, United Kingdom
November 1, 2016

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you for that kind introduction, and thanks for having me here today. I’m delighted to be speaking to this annual conference for the first time.

One of the first tasks that the Obama Administration took on when he became President was to initiate a Ballistic Missile Defense Review or “BMDR.” The timing of this conference provides a unique opportunity to review the progress in meeting the objectives that were laid out in the BMDR as we near the end of President Obama’s time in office.

U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Policy

The 2010 BMDR makes clear that U.S. missile defenses are focused on defending against limited missile threats to the U.S. homeland, and regional missile threats to our deployed forces, allies, and partners throughout the world. The development of ballistic missiles by countries such as Iran and North Korea, and the proliferation of these systems around the world, are what drive our threat assessment.

Missile defenses support a number of defense strategy goals. Ballistic missile defenses help support U.S. security commitments to allies and partners. They provide reassurance that the United States will stand by those commitments despite the growth in the military potential of regional adversaries. Missile defenses also aid the United States in maintaining military freedom of action by helping to negate the potential for regional adversaries to inhibit and disrupt U.S. military access in their regions.

Missile defenses are an essential element of the U.S. commitment to strengthen regional deterrence architectures against states acquiring nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in contravention of international norms, and in defiance of the international community.

Ballistic Missile Defense in Europe

I’d like to turn to missile defense in Europe and highlight the significant progress we have made with our NATO Allies in developing NATO ballistic missile defense (BMD), and in particular our efforts to implement the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).

It was September of 2009 when President Obama announced his plan for strengthening missile defense in Europe, which became known as the EPAA. As with the unveiling of anything new, there were many questions about what the plan was and what it would do. So I’d like to highlight for you what we have done and where we are going with missile defense in Europe.

Missile defense has become an integral part of the NATO Alliance’s overall defense strategy and one pillar of NATO’s deterrence and defense posture. NATO Allies are united as they implement NATO BMD through a common Command and Control (C2) structure, and many from across the Alliance are seeking ways to contribute and burden-share. This NATO capability will be used with NATO agreed command and control procedures, under the control of the North Atlantic Council.

NATO’s BMD capability is being developed and scaled in response to the proliferation of ballistic missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area, on its South-Eastern flank. NATO’s BMD goals are consistent with this aim. The U.S. contribution to this system is the EPAA. Starting in 2011 with Phase 1 of the EPAA, we deployed a missile defense radar in Turkey and began the sustained deployment of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense-capable ships in the Mediterranean. Additionally, in September 2015 we forward deployed the fourth and final U.S. Aegis BMD-capable ship at the naval facility in Rota, Spain.

As part of EPAA Phase 2, we completed the deployment and certification in May, and NATO certified the initial operational capability – or IOC – status, of the Aegis Ashore BMD interceptor site in Romania by July of this year. I give tremendous credit to our U.S. Missile Defense Agency, U.S. European Command, NATO, and Romanian colleagues. They were able to take the site from concept to operationally deployed asset in six years while staying on time and on budget. Combined with BMD-capable ships in the Mediterranean, this site provides a significant enhancement to coverage of NATO from short- and medium-range ballistic missile threats originating from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

Finally, EPAA Phase 3 involves the construction of an Aegis Ashore site in Poland equipped with the new Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block IIA interceptor. In February, the Missile Defense Agency awarded the construction contract for this site. President Obama’s FY2017 budget request designates approximately $127 million for the development of the Aegis Ashore system in FY 2017 and FY 2018. Construction began this past spring, enabling us to remain on schedule to complete this site in the 2018 timeframe. The Phase 3 site in Poland, when combined with other EPAA assets, will provide ballistic missile defense coverage of all NATO European territory from threats originating from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

In addition to EPAA, I would like to highlight and applaud the efforts of our NATO Allies in developing and deploying their own national contributions for missile defense. A great example is the decision by the United Kingdom, announced earlier this year as part of its Strategic Defense and Security Review, to invest in a ground-based radar and continue efforts to investigate the potential for their Type 45 destroyers to operate in a BMD role. Frequently, my Missile Defense Agency colleagues point out the important contribution that comes from having additional sensors for the BMD mission, thereby demonstrating that ballistic missile defense is not only about having an intercept capability.

Other NATO Allies are also playing their part. Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, and Italy have mobile theater BMD capabilities, while Poland and Turkey are planning on procuring such capabilities. The Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Spain, Norway, and Denmark are also developing sea-based radar capabilities. Finally, several allies—including Turkey, Romania, Poland, and Spain—have provided essential basing support.

I’d like to high-light the significant progress made by NATO Allies in developing the necessary NATO C2 systems to effectively command and control the additional NATO BMD forces that have been deployed since the Interim NATO BMD Capability was declared at the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012. This progress fully warranted the Alliance’s declaration of NATO BMD IOC at the NATO Summit in Warsaw this past July.

The Warsaw Summit provided an important opportunity for the Alliance to re-commit to the political framework of NATO BMD agreed to at the 2010 Lisbon Summit – that NATO missile defense is not directed at Russia, and that its aim is to enhance the defense and security of the Alliance as a part of the appropriate mix of capabilities necessary for deterrence and defense.

Additionally, I would like to directly address the long-standing question of Russia and NATO missile defense. NATO has been clear since 2010 that the system NATO is building in Europe is not designed for, or capable of, undermining Russia’s strategic deterrent capabilities – or violating the INF Treaty. NATO has explained this to Russia many times over the years. It is regrettable that Russia did not respond positively to our many offers to cooperate on missile defense, and unfortunately it was Russia that in 2013 unilaterally terminated this cooperative dialogue with NATO. Then, the start of Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine in 2014 led to the suspension of the U.S.-Russia bilateral dialogue on missile defense cooperation.

Ballistic Missile Defense in the Middle East and the Asia Pacific

Beyond Europe, the United States also has deployed missile defense assets to defend our forces, allies, and partners in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions. We deployed Patriot PAC-3 systems and Aegis BMD ships to both regions to address the threat from Iranian and North Korean ballistic missiles. We have also deployed Army/Navy Transportable Radar Surveillance (AN/TPY-2) systems to Israel and Japan to provide early warning of any missile threats. Additionally, we have deployed a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (or THAAD) capability to Guam to support regional defense efforts.

Iran has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, which continues to be a source of concern to both the United States and the international community. We will continue to take actions to counter Iran’s ballistic missile program—including through regional security initiatives with our partners, missile defense initiatives, sanctions, export controls, and the 34-country Missile Technology Control Regime.

Gulf Cooperation Council

At the May 2015 U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit at Camp David hosted by President Obama, the United States and GCC member states committed to a number of initiatives aimed at developing a region-wide BMD capability, including through the development of a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. At the April 2016 U.S.-GCC Summit in Riyadh, the GCC leaders re-committed to these objectives and to expeditiously reaching a consensus on steps necessary to implement an integrated system based on recommendations that the United States subsequently provided to GCC countries in August. In the context of a U.S.-GCC ballistic missile defense working group, we offered technical assistance in the development of a GCC-wide Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. We also hosted a senior leader tabletop exercise in May to further demonstrate the benefits of improved regional ballistic missile defense cooperation.

Our partners in the region are also acquiring tremendous interoperable BMD capabilities that complement and supplement U.S. systems. For example, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has contracted to buy two THAAD batteries and has taken delivery of its Patriot PAC-3 batteries, which provide a lower-tier point defense of critical national assets.


Additionally, and separately, the United States maintains a strong defense relationship with Israel, and our cooperation on missile defense has resulted in a comprehensive missile defense architecture for Israel. The United States supports Israeli programs such as Iron Dome and works with the Israelis in co-developing the David’s Sling and the Arrow III weapon systems, creating a multilayered architecture designed to protect the Israeli people from varying types of missile threats. On September 14, 2016, we announced a new 10-year security assistance Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which the United States has pledged $5 Billion over 10-years for Israeli missile defense.


In the Asia-Pacific, we are continuing missile defense cooperation through our bilateral alliances and key partnerships. The United States and Japan are working closely together to develop the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which will make a key contribution to the EPAA, as well as ship-based deployments in the Asia-Pacific and elsewhere around the world. On December 8 of last year, we successfully completed a flight test of this new interceptor. We also deployed in 2014 a second AN/TPY-2 radar to Japan, which will enhance the defense of both the United States and Japan.

We regularly engage with Japan on missile defense issues, including at our bilateral Extended Deterrence Dialogues. And we are strengthening interoperability and cooperation between U.S. and Japanese forces, which will be aided by the updated U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation Guidelines and Japan's re-interpretation of its constitution to permit the exercise of its right to collective self-defense. The inclusion of missile defense in these guidelines reflects the valuable contribution of BMD.

Republic of Korea

At the same time, we work very closely with the Republic of Korea (ROK) on missile defense issues. In response to the evolving threat from North Korea, including its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs, we made an Alliance decision in July to deploy a THAAD system in the ROK. This system will provide an essential defensive capability against North Korea’s short and medium range missiles. We are committed to deploy the THAAD system to the Republic of Korea as soon as possible where it will be focused solely on North Korea and contribute to a layered missile defense that will enhance the U.S.-ROK Alliance’s existing missile defense capabilities against North Korean ballistic missile threats. We will protect American citizens, Service Members, and our ROK Ally.

U.S. Missile Defense and Russia

Finally, let me say a little more about U.S. missile defense and Russia.

As is the case with China, the Ballistic Missile Defense Review is quite clear on our policy: U.S. missile defense is neither designed nor directed against Russia’s, or China’s for that matter, strategic nuclear deterrent. However, at the same time, we have also made it clear that we cannot and will not accept legally-binding or other constraints that would hinder our ability to defend the United States, our allies, and our partners.

It is also important to note again that contrary to continued Russian assertions, the EPAA is a purely defensive architecture that is in full compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The guarantees Russia demanded in the past would have significantly limited our missile defenses and undermined our ability to stay ahead of the ballistic missile threat. North Korea’s and Iran’s repeated ballistic missile launches and the overall evolving threat from these countries dictates that we must be able to keep up with their evolving technology. The fact that these programs continue to advance in spite of numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions and international pressure, are a convincing reminder of why the United States will continue to insist on having the flexibility to respond effectively to evolving ballistic missile threats with the crucial hedge of missile defense.


U.S. cooperation with other nations on ballistic missile defense is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Threats are diverse, and so must be our solutions. We have been tailoring our unique sets of capabilities to fit with each unique regional security environment stretching from Europe to the Asia-Pacific.

As more actors develop sophisticated ballistic missile capabilities, it is incumbent upon us to take the appropriate steps to defend the U.S. homeland, our deployed forces, and our allies and partners. I can attest that our diplomatic engagements over the last – nearly – eight years have made us, and our allies, better equipped to meet the threats of today, and nimble enough to respond to what threats may lay ahead.

The Obama Administration has built a very solid record of BMD accomplishments that has significantly advanced the defense of the United States and international missile defense cooperation.

With that, I would like to thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon, and I look forward to your questions.