Missile Defense Review expected in 'next few weeks'

By Justin Doubleday / September 4, 2018 at 5:38 PM

The Pentagon is again signaling the release of the long-awaited Missile Defense Review is imminent.

John Rood, under secretary of defense for policy, said the review would be out in "the next few weeks" during a Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance event on Capitol Hill today.

"I'm very desirous of pushing it out as soon as we can," Rood said. "Hopefully, we'll get through the final hurdles in the department to do that very soon."

Pentagon officials originally said the MDR would follow on the heels of the Nuclear Posture Review released on Feb. 2, since the two policy documents are supposed to be tightly linked. U.S. Strategic Command chief Gen. John Hyten has argued the two reviews should be combined.

After the review was not released in February, however, Rood told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March that the Defense Department was weighing "competing approaches" to the missile defense problem. He said then it would take "a couple months" to finish the review.

"Right now, we still have some internal discussions in the department to work through -- different opinions, as you'd expect, on certain questions," he said during the March 22 hearing.

Since then, however, the MDR has yet to be completed, with little explanation from the Pentagon.

The new document will update and replace the policy set by the 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review. As evinced by the name change, the MDR focuses on a wider range of threats, to include cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons, according to Rood.

Since it is driven by the new National Defense Strategy, however, the MDR will also have an increased focus on China and Russia. During the Obama administration, officials said U.S. missile defenses were aimed at the "limited threat" from Iran and North Korea, not the larger strategic arsenals of China and Russia. 

During today's MDAA event, Michael Griffin, the under secretary of defense for research and engineering, said he does not care if China and Russia are threatened by potential U.S. plans to deploy space-based missile defenses, considering those countries are trying to weaponize hypersonic flight and space. Meanwhile, North Korea and Iran also remain threats, he said.

"Somewhere well down on my priority list is caring about what other people think," he said during the MDAA event, which was focused on space-based missile defense. "We just cannot afford to do that, and by creating a geopolitical policy environment where those kinds of considerations are surfaced, by even allowing ourselves to even be drawn into that discussion, we do ourselves and our allies and partners a disfavor."

However, Rood said his job in the policy office at DOD is to consider Russian and Chinese views, even if they are potential adversaries.

"Mike, God love him, his role is the development of new capabilities to defend the United States," Rood said. "When he says he doesn't have time to concern himself with the views of other nations, of course that's policy's role. We do spend a lot of time concerning ourselves with those questions."