Build It and They Will Come: A U.S. Strategy for Integrating Middle East Air and Missile Defenses

In January 2022, the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) published A Stronger and Wider Peace: A U.S. Strategy for Advancing the Abraham Accords. The report heralded the Accords as an historic breakthrough and urged the U.S. government to seize the opportunity to start building a new Middle East defense architecture premised on bringing America’s regional partners together in common cause to counter the growing menace from Iran. Among its top recommendations, the report called on Congress to pass legislation prioritizing the need for a region-wide air defense network to help deter and defeat the escalating missile and drone threat posed by Iran and its terrorist proxies.

Congress quickly took up JINSA’s proposal by passing the Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defenses Act (DEFEND Act) of 2022 as part of its annual defense bill. The DEFEND Act, which received widespread bipartisan and bicameral support, requires the Secretary of Defense to submit within 180 days a U.S. strategy for building an integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) system in the Middle East.

In anticipation of the Act’s final adoption, JINSA assembled its own task force to examine the way forward on Middle East air defenses. Composed of retired U.S. flag officers with extensive regional experience and deep functional expertise, the task force’s goal with this report is to make an important contribution to the development of U.S. strategy on regional IAMD in advance of the Secretary of Defense’s own submission, and to assist Congress in conducting oversight and further advancing America’s critical interest in better protecting U.S. forces and U.S. partners from Iran’s expanding “ring of fire” around the region.

Broadly speaking, the structure of this report is drawn from the DEFEND Act itself and the list of issues it identifies for inclusion in a U.S. strategy. Those issues include a description of: the Iranian airborne threat, the current status of regional air defenses, the value-added of greater air and missile defense integration, obstacles to integration and recommendations for how they can be overcome, current efforts to forge greater integration and future steps, acquisition issues related to integration for both the U.S. and its partners, and any other issues deemed important to the strategy’s successful implementation.

Policy Project Members

Lt Gen Joseph Guastella, USAF (ret.) – Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force

Gen Michael Hostage, USAF (ret.) – Former Commander, Air Combat Command

LTG David Mann, USA (ret.) – Former Commander General of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command

Lt Gen Henry Obering, USAF (ret.) – Former Director of the Missile Defense Agency