Pentagon Officials Say Continued Investments In Missile Defense Are Critical Amid Evolving Threats


By Joseph Clark

Senior Pentagon officials underscored Tuesday the imperative for continued investments in missile defense and deterrence capabilities as U.S. adversaries increasingly seek to extend their offensive reach and threaten to upend global peace and stability.

Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said the threats posed by intermediate and long-range missile technologies in the hands of adversaries are accelerating at a concerning pace.

“Short, intermediate and long-range missile threats are rapidly rising worldwide,” Shyu said in remarks during the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2024 Missile Defense Conference in Washington.  

“We are clearly living in dangerous times,” she said. “Our adversaries are increasingly investing in missile technologies to project power both regionally as well as strategically, providing nations with the ability to launch attacks from considerable distance [and] enhancing their military posture and influence on the global stage.” 

Shyu noted frequent and ongoing missile tests by North Korea and China in describing the evolving threat. She also cited the Russia’s airborne attacks against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and the rise of missile and drone attacks by Iran and its proxies in the Middle East.

Shyu spoke just days after Iran launched more than 300 airborne weapons at targets in Israel over the weekend. Those weapons, which were launched from locations in Syria and Yemen in addition to Iran, included more than 110 medium-range ballistic missiles, dozens of land-attack cruise missiles, and over 150 aerial vehicles.

U.S., Israeli and partner forces destroyed the vast majority of the airborne weapons before they reached their targets.

U.S. Central Command forces, supported by two U.S. Navy destroyers, destroyed more than 80 one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles and at least six ballistic missiles.  

John F. Plumb, assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said during today’s conference that Iran’s attack over the weekend highlighted the multifaceted threats the U.S. and allies must contend with.

That threat is characterized by evolving tactics that have introduced a wide range of aerial platforms, distances and attack vectors by adversaries. Those evolving tactics and technologies allow adversaries to more easily conceal weapons and evade detection once launched.

“In the attacks on Israel this weekend, we saw this dynamic threat picture on full display,” he said. 

He said the effective response to the onslaught of Iranian missiles by the U.S. and its allies “demonstrated the truly remarkable achievements of our missile defense technology [and] tactics,” as well as the “truly remarkable power of cooperating with allies and partners.” 

Both Shyu and Plumb warned that the U.S. must not stop investing in and improving upon its missile defense capabilities as the threats continue to evolve.  

Plumb cautioned that the U.S. cannot rely solely on high-cost interceptor systems to defeat airborne attacks as adversaries increasingly field low-cost drone technology.

At the same time, he warned that advances in missile technologies by near-peer adversaries require continued investments in long-range, over-the-horizon radar and cloud-based command systems to effectively detect and respond to potential threats.

Plumb said space-based detection systems will be critical for detecting and defending against hypersonic weapons and other advanced threats.

“The space domain is intrinsically linked to missile defense in terms of missile warning, missile tracking [and] detection in the scenario of significant technological growth ahead,” he said.  

But he underscored the need to balance investments in exquisite technologies with investments in lower cost, scalable solutions to defeat the range of threats.  

Shyu underscored sustained investments in missile defense are vital to deterring adversaries who seek to use advancements across a range of missile technologies as a means of intimidation against the U.S. and its allies. 

“There’s an urgent need for continued investment in missile defense technologies and strategies to effectively mitigate the growing ballistic missile, cruise missile and hypersonic missile threats,” she said. “Failure to address this escalating threat will have devastating consequences for national security and global stability.”

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DoD News publishes news from the US Defense Department.

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