NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE:
STILL A BAD IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS NOT COME
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 15, 1998
Contact: John Isaacs (202) 543-4100 x.131
Washington, D.C...The report of the Rumsfeld Commission established by
Congress to assess the ballistic missile threat to the United States makes a
case why a ballistic missile threat to the United States could develop more
quickly than had been anticipated by the intelligence community.
With little doubt, proponents of national missile defense deployment will
seize upon the report to advocate quick deployment of a defensive missile
There are major flaws in the proponents' case, however; most notably, the
U.S. has not been able to develop a workable missile defense system after 40
years of trying and spending $108 billion.
The Republican quest for a national missile defense is all too reminiscent
of France's building of the Maginot Line against a resurgent German army.
National Missile Defense remains a bad idea whose time has not come:
Whatever the threat, after more than 40 years, the U.S. still has not
been able to develop a workable defensive missile system against medium or
long-range missiles. Recent testing of missile defenses has produced only
four successes out of 18 tries. This failure to develop an effective
missile defense comes despite spending some $108 billion since the program
was first conceived four decades ago.
The Pentagon continues to develop a National Missile Defense in a hasty
process that the Welch panel in February 1998 called "a rush to failure" and
which the General Accounting Office last month labeled "high risk" [see
quote on next page]
While it may have been difficult to know in advance that the Indian's
were testing underground, above-ground ICBM tests are much more noticeable
and subject to detection.
Only Russia, China, France and Great Britain have long range ballistic
missiles capable of hitting the United States, and the French and British
missiles are on submarines. North Korea's No Dong missile, for example, has
a range of only about 800 kilometers. None of the countries that are
potentially hostile to the United States that may be seeking to develop
long-range missiles has even flight tested a missile that could hit the
United States. Flight tests -- tests that can be easily detected -- will be
necessary before deployment.
National missile defense (NMD) provides no defense against the most
likely future attacks on U.S., which would not be delivered by missiles.
The methods of delivery have already been demonstrated at the World Trade
Center in New York, the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the subway in
Deployment of a national missile defense could reduce U.S. security by
jeopardizing further cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.
It would be more cost effective to spend money on programs to reduce
the most urgent proliferation threats, such as on the dismantlement of
Russian warheads, making weapons-usable fissile material in the former
Soviet republics more secure, strengthening the IAEA, and improving
General Accounting Office Report, June 23, 1998, "National Missile Defense
-- Even With Increase Funding Technical and Schedule Risks are High"
"Overall technical risk associated with a fiscal year 2003 deployment
remains high because the amount of testing, although increased, is still
limited compared to other programs. Even after the increase in the number
of tests, the program manager told us that in his view, the planned flight
test program is anemic. The program plans a maximum of 16-system level
flight tests through the end of fiscal year 2003, the earliest planned
deployment date. By contrast, the Safeguard program included 111 flight
tests before the system became operational. Of these 111 tests, 70 were
intercept tests, 58 of which were successful . . . Despite the additional
activities, the risk of the program being completed on its current schedule
is still high. Also, any decision in fiscal year 2000 to deploy an NMD
system by 2003 would involve high technical risk because the associated
compressed schedule will permit only limited testing of the system."
# # #
Council for a Livable World
110 Maryland Avenue, NE Suite 409
Washington, DC 20002
V: (202) 543-4100 x. 131
F: (202) 543-6297
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