The overall system is still in the testing stage, of course. In 14 tests conducted in 2002 and 2003, long- and short-range interceptors have taken out 11 target missiles. Deploying these 10 interceptors will help us work the bugs out of the overall missile-defense screen and offer some defense against possible attack. Remember -- until the interceptors are activated, we have a 0 percent chance of blocking an attack. If a warhead were heading for Los Angeles, we wouldn?t even have time to evacuate, let alone bring it down.
Plus, these interceptors are merely a start. The military also is working on a system of land- and sea-based interceptors, which will destroy enemy missiles during their ?boost phase,? when they?re moving more slowly.
We?re also working on a third layer of defense, which would target any missiles that survived the first two attempts to shoot them down.
All of this will cost money, of course. The Bush administration is asking Congress for about $10 billion to fund missile defense next year. That seems like a lot, but it?s actually only about 3 percent of the entire $422 billion defense budget.
Most of our spending still will be devoted to offense, to ensure the United States maintains the best fighting force on the planet. And we?ll have the best defense as well. Now, there?s a winning combination.