Byliner: Aldridge on Tight Security for Missile Defense

(This byliner is by Pete Aldridge, who is the Undersecretary of
Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. The column first
appeared in USA Today on June 26, 2002 and is in the public domain. No
republication restrictions.)

Tight Security Makes Sense

By Pete Aldridge

Recent articles and columns in some of America's major newspapers have focused on Defense Department policy concerning the secrecy of our ballistic missile defense (BMD) program. They report that the Missile Defense Agency (a department overseen by my office of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) will now classify certain aspects of that program. With varying degrees of directness, they imply sinister motives for these new precautions. Though the underlying reports are accurate, the consequent charges are groundless.

The charges common to these articles are first, that planning and reporting requirements customary for past acquisition programs have been suspended; second, that congressional oversight will now be hindered; and third, that information concerning the targets and decoys used during testing will henceforth be restricted.

Internal BMD planning and reporting have not been suspended. They have, however, been modified to accommodate the peculiarities of a development program without precedent. As for congressional reporting, those requirements are mandated by laws with which we will always comply. Additionally, there is not now, and can never be, any component of this program classified beyond the reach of the security clearances of its congressional overseers. The charge of oversight evasion thus borders on the preposterous. Congress' constitutionally mandated oversight will always be respected.

Notably, those objecting the loudest to these precautions are not even in Congress. They are predominantly members of advocacy groups long opposed to BMD. But the shrillness of their complaints is muted by the stakes. And those stakes insist that we restrict non-congressional access to data on targets and decoys. As this program matures, as the system's strengths gain definition and as we address those terrorist states racing to perfect their ballistic missiles, it would be base negligence to facilitate the countermeasures of our adversaries.

These precautions reflect the common-sense evolution of any national defense program making rapid progress in time of war. On June 14, our obligations under the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty ended, and our testing program can now proceed. What could be a more appropriate time to tighten security? Doing so is sensible, not sinister.

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(Pete Aldridge is the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.)

Source: US State Department