President Donald Trump is preparing to head to South Korea where he will meet with the country’s president (and purported “fine gentleman”) Moon Jae-in to strategize about their simmering standoff with North Korea. Meanwhile, back home, his allies in Congress are carrying out his instructions to request another $4 billion to expand the US’s missile-defense capabilities in the face of the growing threat from the North.
Getting ready to leave for South Korea and meetings with President Moon, a fine gentleman. We will figure it all out!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2017
“This request supports additional efforts to detect, defeat, and defend against any North Korean use of ballistic missiles against the United States, its deployed forces, allies or partners,” President Trump wrote in a letter to Congress on Monday.
According to the Hill, The supplemental budget request sent to Congress Monday also asks for $1.2 billion more for the administration’s new Afghanistan strategy and almost $700 million to repair the two Navy destroyers that were badly damaged in a series of at-sea collisions this summer.
It also reiterates the president’s desire for Congress to pass $1.6 billion in funding for a wall on the border with Mexico.
“Providing for the safety and security of the American people is my top priority,” Trump wrote in the letter. “That priority is reflected in both the enclosed DOD Budget amendments and the border wall request, which provides the down payment on what [Customs and Border Protection] needs to secure the southwest border."
Spending on ballistic-missile defense enjoys broad bipartisan support (despite providing a false sense of security, at best). Defense hawks have long sought more missile defense in recent years as North Korea’s missile program has steadily advanced.
The administration originally requested $9.9 billion for fiscal 2018 for missile defense, which defense hawks slammed as insufficient and a cut from its current funding level.
Trump himself promised “billions” more for missile defense in August.
“We’re going to be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars because of North Korea and other reasons having to do with the anti-missile [aspect],” Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, the Hill pointed out.
If approved, the money would probably go toward construction of an additional Ground-Based Interceptor field at Fort Greely, Alaska, as well as initial funding to buy 20 new interceptors for the system.
It would also pay for 16 Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptors, 50 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptors, missile detection radar upgrades, intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities, and long-range strike capabilities, among other areas.
About $1.2 billion of the money would go toward Afghanistan and South Asia strategy, including the deployment of 3,500 more troops to Afghanistan, which Trump announced over the summer.
While defense spending requests like this one typically sail through Congress without a hitch, some have raised questions about the efficacy of US missile defense systems, including whether the circumstances under which the ballistic missile intercepts are tested represent an adequate simulation of real-life conditions.
To be sure, America’s existing missile defense systems (overseen by a little-known branch of the military called the Missile Defense Agency) have reportedly been successful, as we pointed out late last month, those tests haven’t been conducted under realistic conditions, suggesting that Trump’s assertion that those systems could intercept a missile with 97% chance of success is way off base.
Furthermore, the North’s ballistic missiles are actually the least of the US’s problems - that is, until the country can successfully build a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on an ICBM. RIght now, the bigger threat would be detonating a hydrogen bomb high in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing an electromagnetic pulse that could knock out power across a broad swath of the US, potentially killing hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of civilians.
Read the request below: