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Arms Control and International Security: Gulf Cooperation Council and Ballistic Missile Defense

Thank you, Peter, for that kind introduction and for hosting me again at this series.

I’m very happy to be with you today to address our efforts in working with Gulf Cooperation Council to enhance Ballistic Missile Defense cooperation in the region, as I have just recently returned from the Middle East Missile Air Defense Symposium in Abu Dhabi.

In my remarks this morning, I’d like to accomplish two things. First, I’d like to share with you a bit about my most recent discussions on missile defense with our partners in the Gulf. Second, I’d like to outline the key takeaways from my latest trip to the region, chief among them is the progress that has been made in developing regional missile defenses with the Gulf Cooperation Council. After that, I’m happy to take your questions.

U.S. Commitment to Gulf Security, Including Missile Defense

As you know, this is a time of profound change in that region. We are experiencing perhaps an unprecedented moment of engagement and dialogue with nations around the world. At the same time, we are also acutely aware of the daily threats and anxieties felt throughout the Gulf.

As you also know, security cooperation has long stood at the core of the U.S.-Gulf partnership. The United States is not only committed to enhancing U.S.-GCC missile defense cooperation – we see it as a strategic imperative.

As stated in the 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review, a key objective of U.S. strategy is to expand international efforts and cooperation on ballistic missile defense. BMD cooperation contributes to regional stability by deterring regional actors, principally by eliminating their confidence in the effectiveness of their systems, and assuring allies and partners both of the U.S. commitments and by enhancing their ability to defend against these threats should they become necessary.

The message I delivered in the region was clear: the United States remains firmly committed to developing and deploying advanced missile defense capabilities around the world to protect our homeland, our deployed forces, as well as our friends and allies who depend on us for security.

It’s worth mentioning that U.S.-GCC security cooperation extends well beyond the topic of today’s discussion, or BMD. Maritime security is an important focus, given the massive commercial and energy resources that traverse the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. And U.S. and Gulf experts are now meeting as a group to exchange best practices on counterterrorism and border security, within which cyber security is becoming an increasingly prominent topic. Stated plainly, we are committed to working with our GCC partners to strengthen multilateral defense cooperation as an important complement to our strong bilateral partnerships in the region. To help reach that goal, in December 2013 President Obama designated the GCC eligible for Foreign Military Sales. Among other benefits, this designation helps lay the groundwork for the GCC states to address regional ballistic missile defense through multilateral procurement.

That’s the same designation we’ve given NATO, allowing the GCC to invest in shared systems for mutual defense, even as the United States continues a strong bilateral defense partnership with each individual GCC member state. And it demonstrates our commitment to the U.S.-Gulf Partnership, and our ultimate commitment to see the Gulf become a stronger, more capable partner in confronting the many challenges to our shared interests in the region. Earlier today, Secretary Hagel met with his Gulf counterparts in Jeddah for the first ever U.S.-GCC Defense Ministerial, which likewise signals U.S. intent to strengthen and deepen our bilateral and multilateral ties in this critical region.

Progress on Regional Missile Defense

The President’s address at the United Nations General Assembly last fall reaffirmed our continued commitment to Gulf security. Indeed, my principal takeaway from the trip was that our security commitments and partnerships in the Gulf are more extensive today than ever before.

As I discussed several weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, the March 2012 launch of the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum, or SCF, has enhanced our partnership on policies that advance shared political, security, military, and economic objectives in the Gulf, including intensified efforts on ballistic missile defense cooperation.

At his first Forum last September, Secretary of State John Kerry, my boss, made clear that a top U.S.-GCC priority would continue to be enhancing ballistic missile defense cooperation, including the eventual development of Gulf-wide coordinated missile defense architecture. And we can expect BMD to have been a primary focus at today’s inaugural U.S.-GCC Defense Ministerial.

Burden Sharing

It was clear from my discussions with our partners in the region that the GCC shares our goal of building an effective regional defense against the threat of ballistic missiles, and is willing and ready to defend its own security future.

Several of our Gulf state partners expressed an interest in buying missile defense systems, and some have already done so. For example, the United Arab Emirates has contracted to buy two THAAD batteries that, when operational, will enhance the U.A.E.’s security as well as regional stability. The U.A.E. also has taken delivery of its Patriot PAC-3 batteries, which provide a lower-tier, point defense of critical national assets.

Saudi Arabia is in the process of upgrading its existing Patriot PAC-2 batteries to the PAC-3 configuration. Kuwait also is upgrading its existing batteries to PAC-3, and in December 2013 signed an offer for two additional PAC-3 batteries.

These procurements demonstrate our GCC partners’ determination to provide for their own defense, and when combined with our regional BMD capabilities, represent a significant contribution to regional stability at a time when our own defense spending is under fiscal pressure.

Our GCC partners are investing billions of dollars in missile defense purchases. In today’s austere budget environment, these investments can help achieve greater economies of scale.

Military and Diplomatic Coordination

And I’ll close by looking ahead towards next steps on BMD in the region.

Effective ballistic missile defense is not based on military might alone. Advanced, interoperable systems to intercept and destroy attacking missiles must be combined with diplomatic cooperation and coordination.

Ballistic missiles can destabilize and weaken a region due to their short flight times and potentially devastating consequences. WMD armed missiles in particular can have broad consequences not only within a targeted country but within a region, as the effects of a successful attack are not always limited to that country. And even conventionally armed missiles can be a significant military threat.

But ballistic missiles are also a weapon of choice for an adversary that wants to gain political influence over its regional neighbors. We have seen ballistic missile test firings used as a tool to intimidate, blackmail, or coerce a country’s neighbors.

The nature of the ballistic missile threat means that the United States, and the GCC, must be prepared both diplomatically and militarily well before the first missile is launched.

The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense work as active partners in the Strategic Cooperation Forum to emphasize the need for planning, both diplomatic and military, when it comes to ballistic missile defense.

In fact, our dialogues within the SCF include representatives from the Defense Department and U.S. Air Forces Central Command for one clear reason: because ballistic missile defense requires a whole-of-government approach.

To facilitate further a dialogue with our Gulf partners on BMD issues, President Obama obtained authority from Congress expanding the authority of the U.S. Air Force to conduct integrated air and missile defense training at the U.S.-U.A.E. Integrated Air and Missile Defense Center, which is located in the United Arab Emirates. These integrated defense trainings are uniquely positioned to play a key role in advancing regional BMD policies, procedures, and cooperation.

At a strategic level, we must continue to encourage better planning and preparation among both our military leaders and our senior diplomats. It should also be our shared task with the Gulf to develop strategic communications plans and ensure close and effective consultations with regional partners to advance our joint security and prosperity.

The U.S.-Gulf partnership can therefore bring together the strength of our combined forces with the skill of our strategic planning. We will be much more successful in advancing our shared interests by working together than by going it alone.

Missile Defense Cooperation with Israel

And finally, I want to note that our cooperation with the GCC states will in no way detract from the separate, robust U.S.-Israel BMD cooperation program. Since 2003, the Department of Defense, with the help of Congress, has provided nearly $2.5 billion to Israel to help develop a number of missile defense systems including Iron Dome, Arrow, and David's Sling. This includes $440 million in FY 13 alone. Throughout the development of these systems, our goal has been to ensure there are no shortages in these important systems and that U.S. investments meet Israel's security needs and production capacity.

The President's budget requests $96.8 million in FY15 for Arrow and David’s Sling, and $176 million for Iron Dome. By the end of FY15, the United States will have provided over $875 million in funding for Iron Dome.


In conclusion, ballistic missile defense issues cross military and, most importantly for us at the State Department, diplomatic equities. Moving forward, we hope to encourage deepened understanding and engagement in the Gulf on the need to combine diplomatic and military knowledge and expertise to address the full range of issues on effective missile defenses and strengthen the larger strategic deterrent architecture.

The United States will continue to work closely with each of our partners in the GCC to help them strengthen their capacity. Enhanced missile defense capabilities among the GCC not only protect our partners from the growing regional threat, but strengthened regional deterrence architecture ultimately keeps our interests, and our homeland, secure.

Thank you very much, and I look forward to your questions.