President Ronald Reagan was frequently two steps ahead of everyone else—the media, the Congress, the Soviets. Reagan’s ‘head-for-knowing’ was evidenced by his prescient support for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). A missile defense system designed to protect the continental United States from a missile attack.
Reagan said in 1984 that “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” SDI—Reagan thought—would not only be a missile shield but also security to keep the U.S. from an all-out nuclear assault. The plan made sense and had the support of the American people, but the promise went unfulfilled because the missile systems were underfunded and never completed. The media and political establishment lacked Reagan’s vision and "untiring determination." His political opponents purposefully undermined SDI putting their ideology over national security.
One significant way in which President Donald Trump could offer bold leadership in a manner like Reagan and divergent from the political establishment would be to fulfill the promise of missile defense for the American people.
This would be an ‘America first’ policy that would correct President Obama’s ‘leading from behind’ and disengagement policies that have damaged America’s defensive capabilities. Sadly, our nation relies on deterrence through the nuclear triad—land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. U.S. policy is simple: America will respond with overwhelming force to any nuclear attack—Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). However, it was Reagan’s "fervent goal and hope" that someday we would no longer have to rely on nuclear weapons to deter aggression. Reagan wanted to move America past MAD and the nightmare scenario of the full-scale use of weapons of mass destruction.
Initiating a missile defense system would get us to Reagan’s vision of a “day when the children of the world grow up without the fear of nuclear war.”
Over the past few years, the rhetoric of our enemies has become heated and the real threat of a ballistic missile launch against the United States is real. North Korea has increased saber rattling as have the Russians and the Iranians. America is vulnerable to missile attack. Congress needs to act by making missile defense a funding priority. America's Founders understood that “the surest means of avoiding war is to be prepared for it in peace.”
Housed in the Department of Defense is the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). Its purpose is “to develop, test, and field an integrated, layered, ballistic missile defense system to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies, and friends against all ranges of enemy ballistic missiles in all phases of flight.” MDA has standing plans that take America’s missile program into the future.
During the Obama years, military funding was depleted and during the Bush years the emphasis was on supporting our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, Trump’s promise of a robust and “state of the art” missile defense system would counteract “the downward trend of the past decade, during which the Missile Defense Agency budget declined by nearly a quarter, from $11 billion in 2007 to $8.4 billion in 2016 (2017 dollars).”
American policy must be reoriented so we are investing more resources, not less, to protect our shores. America has spent billions of dollars protecting our allies. It’s time to reprioritize our defense spending to better protect the homeland.
When the American people voted for Donald Trump, they voted—they demanded—change. Americans want their representatives in Washington to invest in America.
It’s been three decades since President Reagan gave us his vision to reduce the danger of nuclear war by launching SDI. It’s past time to act; it’s time for bold leadership. President Trump was elected for such a time.