Obama scraps Bush missile defense plan

ByABC News
September 17, 2009, 12:15 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Obama said Wednesday he has shelved a missile defense system to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic because a "new approach" will provide better protection against possible attacks by Iran and other rogue states.

"Our new missile defense architecture in Europe" will be "smarter, safer, and swifter" than the plan authorized by predecessor George W. Bush, Obama said during brief remarks at the White House.

The decision is yet another reversal of a Bush administration policy, though Obama said he agreed with Bush's assessment that Iran's missile program poses a threat.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who spoke later at the Pentagon, said the revamped missile defense system will "enhance our ability to respond to the most immediate threats." Gates criticized reports that the administration is "scrapping" the idea of missile defense in Europe.

USA TODAY reported in March that the government had already spent $144 billion on missile defense since 1985 and that many of the tests of the system did not work.

The type of ground-based interceptors that would be deployed in Europe failed to hit targets in five of 13 tests, according to the Pentagon. They have not demonstrated an ability to detect decoys, the Government Accountability Office says.

Obama's decision is sure to please Russia, which objected vehemently to having the system so close to its borders. The Polish and Czech governments had lobbied for the missiles, though many citizens in both countries also opposed the plan. Both countries agreed on a final basing plan last year after the United States promised them additional military aid.

Republicans such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona said the initial missile shield plan was designed to deter threats from Iran and build closer ties to Eastern Europe.

McCain, who lost to Obama in last year's election, said the decision "has the potential to undermine perceived American leadership in Eastern Europe," at a time when nations there "are increasingly wary of renewed Russian adventurism."