They're right to be concerned. Tehran is thumbing its nose at Washington and doubling down on its missile program. The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told a congressional panel in March that Iran "would likely choose missile delivery as its preferred method of delivering a nuclear weapon" and that the Islamic Republic "continues to expand the scale, reach and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces, many of which are inherently capable of carrying a nuclear payload."
Russian assistance has contributed to the progress made by Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Should the United States share critical information about its missile defenses with the Russians, a Russian entity -- official or otherwise -- could pass that information along to Tehran, enabling the Iranians to capitalize on the weaknesses in the U.S. system.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration continues to demonstrate its penchant for bargaining away missile defense, and the United States is not currently developing and deploying missile defense technology at the rate and quantity the threat demands.
The proliferation of missiles, especially short-range devices, continues to accelerate. As a result, the United States has a greater need than ever for short-range defensive systems like the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the Patriot air and missile defense system. The United States, its forces abroad, and its allies are also vulnerable to short-range missiles fired from ships at sea and long-range missiles fired in large quantities. The only system the United States currently has to defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) is the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system, which is limited in its ability. The sea-based Aegis system is supposed to complement the GMD system in defending the homeland against long-range missiles by 2020, but the intelligence community continues to estimate that Iran will have an ICBM by 2015.
Leaders in the House, and particularly the Armed Services Committee, deserve commendation for trying to address these weaknesses. The House defense bill added funds for short-range defenses, the GMD system, and Aegis; and perhaps most strikingly, it mandated the administration to conduct a study on the technical and operational feasibility of space-based interceptors -- the ideal type of system to intercept missiles at the optimal point, during their boost phase.
But as the administration's veto threat demonstrates, the future of U.S. missile defense requires more than Congress alone can provide. Here's hoping that the White House comes to its senses and stops trying to use a degradation in U.S. national security to purchase a Russian "reset."