If you didn't read it, Secretary Gates NY Times Op-Ed was somewhat important. The public debate isn't really about the technical nature of the decision, but it is important to get the Secretary's opinion when he offers it.
Last week, President Obama — on my recommendation and with the advice of his national-security team and the unanimous support of our senior military leadership — decided to discard that plan in favor of a vastly more suitable approach. In the first phase, to be completed by 2011, we will deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles — weapons that are growing in capability — in the areas where we see the greatest threat to Europe.If you read into page 2, he addresses the political debate. I think the President made the right decision and think there is an overreaction taking place on the political right. My only concern is one nobody in the debate is talking about, and that is how does the Navy afford this. So far the Navy is reducing aircraft carriers, building fewer Littoral Combat Ships in future shipbuilding, and taking on a greater role in BMD.
The second phase, which will become operational around 2015, will involve putting upgraded SM-3s on the ground in Southern and Central Europe. All told, every phase of this plan will include scores of SM-3 missiles, as opposed to the old plan of just 10 ground-based interceptors. This will be a far more effective defense should an enemy fire many missiles simultaneously — the kind of attack most likely to occur as Iran continues to build and deploy numerous short- and medium-range weapons. At the same time, plans to defend virtually all of Europe and enhance the missile defense of the United States will continue on about the same schedule as the earlier plan as we build this system over time, creating an increasingly greater zone of protection.
Steady technological advances in our missile defense program — from kill vehicles to the abilities to network radars and sensors — give us confidence in this plan. The SM-3 has had eight successful tests since 2007, and we will continue to develop it to give it the capacity to intercept long-range missiles like ICBMs. It is now more than able to deal with the threat from multiple short- and medium-range missiles — a very real threat to our allies and some 80,000 American troops based in Europe that was not addressed by the previous plan.
In other words, so far it is about fewer ships and more obligations. It will be interesting how this balances out.