So, let's recap. North Korea parades six missiles though Kim Il Sung Square and then sends them out to South Hamgyong Province or some other barren piece of North Korean real estate. We commit to a $1 billion dollar decision to add 14 interceptors that totally solve the problem, provided the North Koreans don't build nine instead of six ICBMs. By the way, the new interceptors won't be ready until 2017, but we're hoping to have a successful flight test at some point during the wait.
The only downside, assuming you view squandered defense dollars as stimulus, is, having shot down eight North Korean ballistic missiles, we now need to think about a plausible defense against the several hundred nuclear-armed Russian missiles that have been launched by whatever drunken slobodnik succeeds Vladimir Putin. Maybe a space-based laser? Think I am kidding?
Hagel's other three decisions are also worth mentioning, although none is quite so ludicrous as the decision to spend a billion dollars on the 14 interceptors. Secretary Hagel re-announced Secretary Panetta's decision to deploy a new TPY-2 radar to Japan. It is old news, but comparatively welcome at least in part because it runs zero risk of starting an accidental nuclear war with Russia.
Hagel also announced that, per congressional direction, the Defense Department will fund environmental impact studies for an East Coast missile defense site. As I have noted before, the National Academies recommended a third site in New England as part of a comprehensive program to replace the current GMD system. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, decided to adopt the third site idea -- but using the existing interceptors, defeating the entire purpose. Overall, Congress interpreted the National Academies recommendation to suspend further funding for the GMD system as a reason to increase that funding by $400 million. Not to be outdone, Secretary Hagel has now upped that figure to $1 billion dollars. For a system the National Academies study recommends replacing. Doesn't anyone read anymore? I suppose I could suggest they light the money on fire, but as long as the East Coast site is a real policy option, I can keep making Mianus jokes.
Finally, Hagel did manage a bit of sensible policymaking. Hagel rather cleverly used congressional pressure for an East Coast site as an exit strategy from what was to be Phase IV of the European Phased Adaptive Approach -- the plan to place superfast SM-3 IIB interceptors (which at the moment do not exist) in Poland to defend the United States from Iranian missiles (which at the moment do not exist). Normally, any change made by a Democrat to any missile defense architecture will be met with cries of perfidy from certain quarters, but only a few dead-enders seemed to notice the demise of Phase IV. The New York Times didn't even mention that Hagel killed Phase IV in its initial news coverage. (The Washington Post has now published an editorial complaining that everyone missed the big news regarding the cancelation of Phase IV. I've posted some comments at ArmsControlWonk.com.)
Phase IV of the EPAA was little loved. Congressional Republicans hated it because Obama put it in place of George Bush's plan to put ground-based interceptors at a site in Europe. (Now what are they going to name after him?) The Navy hated the idea of going ashore, although they aren't completely off the hook just yet. The Russians weren't the least bit mollified, once they figured out the SM-3 IIB deployment would be every bit as worrisome as the old Bush plan. And the National Academies concluded that, sooner or later, the Iranians could shoot over the thing. The only people who loved Phase IV had a direct financial interest in the outcome, and even they couldn't even be bothered to pay one of the usual suspects to write a favorable op-ed about how Western civilization depended on no fewer than six SM-3 II B interceptors near Gdansk. Some people believe the Russians will be delighted, which I predict will last something like 15 minutes.
And with that, ladies and gentlemen, we have the first major announcement of Chuck Hagel's tenure as secretary of defense. The questions were softballs that Hagel, Miller, and Winnefeld for the most part dodged. Everyone seemed satisfied that North Korea got the message, while South Korea and Japan were surely reassured. One billion dollars! That's a heck of a commitment right there, pal. After a little more tough talk -- Winnefeld announced that "this young lad," a.k.a. Kim Jong Un, "ought to be deterred" by all this -- everybody adjourned in time for our regularly scheduled B-52 over-flight.