Senior U.S. defense officials underscored the importance of ballistic missile defense modernization efforts requested in the fiscal 2014 budget proposal citing disturbing trends in Iran, North Korea, Syria and elsewhere around the globe.
"The threat continues to grow as our potential adversaries are acquiring a greater number of ballistic missiles, increasing their range and making them more complex, survivable, reliable and accurate," Navy Vice Adm. J.D. Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a testimony on Thursday.
"The missile defense mission is becoming more challenging as potential adversaries incorporate [ballistic missile defense] countermeasures," he reported.
Syring said the Missile Defense Agency "is engaged either bilaterally or multilaterally with nearly two dozen countries and international organizations," including NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council. He reported "good progress in our work with our international partners."
The budget requests $9.2 billion in fiscal 2014 and $45.7 billion over future years to develop and deploy missile defense capabilities.
Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for global strategic affairs, told the panel that these capabilities would both protect the U.S. homeland and strengthen regional missile defenses.
The administration remains committed to developing proven and cost-effective missile defense capabilities through the phased advance approach to regional missile defense, Creedon noted in her written statement.
"This approach puts emphasis on a flexible military toolkit with forces that are mobile and scalable. They underwrite deterrence in peacetime, but can be surged in crisis to meet defense requirements," she said.
Creeden reported on progress on three policy priorities: sustaining a strong homeland defense, strengthening regional missile defense and fostering increased international cooperation and participation.
She emphasized the importance of continually improving the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system in place to protect the U.S. homeland against potential limited intercontinental ballistic missile attacks.
The budget request, she said, supports this effort as well as enhancement of ground-based interceptors and deployment improved sensors, she said. The proposal also includes funding to implement regional missile defense approaches that Creedon said would be tailored to the unique deterrence and defense requirements of Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific regions.
While promoting these efforts, the United States is striving to build stronger relationships with allies and partners to cooperatively address the ballistic missile threat, and to help build partner capacity to do so, she said.
The fiscal 2014 budget request reflects DoD's goals of retaining the flexibility to adjust and to enhance its defenses as the threat and technologies evolve, Creedon said.
"Our most vital security commitments - the defense of the United States and the protection of our allies and partners and our forces around the world - demand nothing less," she added.