R. James Woolsey

Ballistic Missile Defense
30 May 1996 - House Government Reform and Oversight
Subcommittee on National Security

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, it is an honor to be asked to testify before you today on the topic of ballistic missile defense.

Let me begin by addressing the subject of the threat.

Just under three months ago I was in Taipei when the Chinese government announced its intention to begin ballistic missile launches three days later into two 20-mile-square impact areas, one a mere 20 miles off Taiwan's northeast coast and the other 30 miles off the southwest coast. These launches interfered with access to Taiwan's principal port, Kaohsiung, to Taipei's international airport, and to rich fishing grounds. In Taipei I called the announcement a "de facto, partial, temporary blockade." After originally stating that the firings did not constitute a blockade, were only political theater -- albeit "a little too close to the edge of the stage" -- and announcing that "there will be consequences should these tests go wrong," I was glad to see that the administration later labelled the firings reckless and provocative. The main point here should never have been what the consequences would be in the event that China turned out not to be able to hit even a square in the ocean 20 miles on a side. The main point is what the consequences are when such tests go right.

The key issue is that off Taiwan this past March, as well as in the streets of Tel Aviv and Riyadh in early 1991, we have been given an important insight into the future of international relations. It is not an attractive vision. Ballistic missiles can, and in the future they increasingly will, be used by hostile states for blackmail, terror, and to drive wedges between us and our friends and allies. It is my judgment that the administration is not currently giving this vital problem the proper weight it deserves.

I will turn in a moment to the presentation given the end of February to the Congress by Richard Cooper, Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, covering the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), "Emerging Missile Threats to North America During the Next Fifteen Years." (I would stress that throughout my testimony today in my references to this NIE, this unclassified presentation of Dr. Cooper's is my only source of information about this estimate.) But here at the outset let me say a few words in general about the threat that ballistic missiles are coming to pose to American interests in the world.

First, although ballistic missiles are normally discussed in the same breath with weapons of mass destruction, it is important to realize that it is not always necessary to deploy nuclear, chemical, or bacteriological warheads in order to use ballistic missiles -- even with current accuracies -- as weapons of terror and blackmail. The Chinese, for example, have admitted that they were using these recent missile launches near Taiwan to attempt to influence Taiwan's Presidential elections and to affect Taiwan's conduct of its relations with other countries. Saddam's SCUD attacks on Israel, using conventional high-explosive warheads, were clearly an attempt to provoke an Israeli response and to split the coalition against Iraq, which included a number of Arab states which would have had great difficulty fighting alongside Israel against another Arab nation.

Second, we are in the midst of an era of revolutionary improvements in missile guidance. These improvements will soon make ballistic missiles much more effective for blackmail purposes -- again, even without the need for warheads containing weapons of mass destruction. The press has recently reported, for example, that the U.S. Government is adopting a policy to permit other-than-U.S.-government-users of the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network to have much greater confidence that the satellites' signals will not be interrupted or degraded by the U.S. The press also reports that the administration believes that regional agreements will ensure that the signals cannot be used by hostile forces. But the efficacy of such arrangements remains to be seen. The current type of GPS access is adequate for many commercial purposes. But if the policy of "selective availability" of GPS is about to be abandoned, there will be a definite risk not only that guidance signals, provided by the U.S., will be usable by other nations for their ballistic missile systems (that is true today), but that truly excellent accuracy will thereby be achievable for many countries' missiles.

With such guidance improvements, it is quite reasonable to believe that within a few years Saddam or the Chinese rulers will be able to threaten something far more troubling than firings of relatively inaccurate ballistic missiles. They may quite plausibly be able to threaten to destroy, say, the Knesset, or threaten to create, in effect, an intentional Chemobyl incident at a Taiwanese nuclear power plant.

Third, even relatively inaccurate ballistic missiles may be given awesome power if equipped with weapons of mass destruction. Although attention is usually focused on the possibility of various countries' obtaining nuclear warheads, nuclear capability is at least somewhat constrained by the difficulty of acquiring fissionable material. Loose controls over fissionable material, particularly in the former Soviet Union, are nevertheless quite troubling because unauthorized sales and smuggling of fissionable material to rogue states are becoming increasingly likely. But it is even easier to acquire the wherewithal to produce chemical or, much worse, bacteriological warheads than it is to acquire fissionable material. Chemical and bacteriological weapons will be available far sooner and to a much larger number of countries than will nuclear warheads. Bacteriological warheads in particular will serve about as well as nuclear ones for purposes of turning a country's ballistic missiles into extremely effective tools of terror and blackmail, even if they are never launched. This Committee is well familiar with the large number of countries working on ballistic missiles, and with the international traffic intechnology and equipment -- much of it out of Russia, China, and North Korea -- that assists other nations in developing and improving ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

Fourth, it is not necessary to be able to conduct an effective counterforce strike with ballistic missiles against ICBM silos, bomber bases, and other nuclear facilities in our continental heartland in order to use ballistic missiles for terror and blackmail directly against the United States. This concern with a counterforce strike against nuclear facilities in the interior of the lower 48 states was, of course, a principal issue for us during the long strategic stand- off against the Soviet Union during the cold war. Much of our strategic analysis during those years centered on the ability of, particularly, our ICBM's and strategic bombers to withstand such a strike and retaliate effectively. For example, the Scowcroft Commission Report in 1983, of which I was the principal drafter, was heavily devoted to this question.

But in current circumstances, nuclear blackmail threats against the United States may be effectively posed by, e.g., North Korean intermediate-range missiles targeted on Alaska or Hawaii, or by Chinese ICBM's targeted on Los Angeles. Fifth, we should not automatically assume a benign post-cold-war world in which Russia is a democracy, with a few inconsequential anomalies, that is steadily developing a free enterprise economy and China is a free enterprise economy, with a few inconsequential anomalies, that is steadily developing democracy. It is at least as likely, in my judgment, that the Russia that will face us will be increasingly autocratic and imperialistic -- we may hope, but we should not be confident, that it will retain some measure of civil liberties and some free sectors in its economy. As for the new China, in addition to our serious differences with its leaders over civil liberties, proliferation, and trade, we may well have seen its international face in the Taiwan Straits this Spring. In short, we cannot discount the possibility of serious international crises developing in the future with either country -- including crises in which Russian or Chinese officials will repeat new versions of the recent barely veiled threat expressed to former Assistant Secretary. Freeman: American leaders "care more about Los Angeles than they do Taiwan."

It is with these considerations in mind that I have some thoughts about the recent NIE covering "Emerging Missile Threats to North America During the Next Fifteen Years." The answers provided to the questions that were asked -- based on the public record -- during the process of writing this NIE may well be the best consensus that the Intelligence Community can produce, and may be generally consistent with earlier work. The reason, it seems to me, why this estimate seems to differ in important ways from the major assessments during my tenure as DCI, lies much more in the questions that are asked. To focus an NIE on the threat to the contiguous 48 states, in my judgment, is to focus on a sub-set, and not a particularly useful sub- set, of the strategic problems that are posed for us by other countries' possession of ballistic missiles in the post-cold-war era.

If broad conclusions are drawn from an NIE of such limited scope, as they apparently have been -- for example, that "intelligence indicates" that ballistic missiles do not pose a serious threat to U.S. interests -- the conclusions could be quite wrong, even if the drafters of the NIE answered as best they could the questions they were asked. If decision-makers conclude, and I believe this would be a serious error, that this NIE -- at least as it has publicly been described "covers the most important questions about ballistic missile threats to American interests, what would they say about, e.g., nuclear blackmail threats against Alaska and Hawaii? These sort of threats will in great likelihood be present from North Korean intermediate range missiles in well under fifteen years. Such questions as these seem to be an afterthought, at least in the public description of the NIE. But the last time I looked, Alaska and Hawaii had not been admitted to the Union on terms that exclude them in some way from the common defense called for in the Constitution's preamble. As objects of blackmail they are of no less concern to us than Oklahoma and Kansas.

I believe that the "contiguous 48" frame of reference for this NIE, if the document is used as a basis for drawing general policy conclusions, can lead to a badly distorted and minimized perception of the serious threats we face from ballistic missiles now and in the very near future -threats to our friends, our allies, our overseas bases and military forces, our overseas territories, and some of the 50 states. Using an estimate that focuses on the ICBM threat to the contiguous 48 states to make general judgments about our need for ballistic missile defenses is, if you will grant me some literary license, akin to saying that because we believe that for the next number of years local criminals will not be able to blow up police headquarters in the District of Columbia, there is no serious threat to the safety and security of police in the District.

I would add several other points about this NIE, as it is set out in the unclassified February statement to the Congress. The concentration on indigenous ICBM development also seems to me to limit sharply any general conclusions that might legitimately be drawn. Dr. Cooper's testimony indicates that "the potential for foreign assistance introduces some uncertainty into our predictions of timelines." That is putting it mildly. Again, the NIE's answers may be reasonable in view of the questions it seeks to answer. If you are assessing indigenous capabilities within currently-hostile countries to develop ICBM's that can hit the lower 48 states, the NIE's answer that we have 15 years of comfort may well be a plausible answer.

Indigenous development of ICBM's was of interest during the cold war because the Soviets sought to maintain a monopoly on their most precious military capabilities and export of fully developed ICBM's was not in the cards. But in the cold war's aftermath, Russia, China, and North Korea are in the export business for missile technology and components, and for some technologies related to weapons of mass destruction as well. Moreover, with respect to some such exports the degree of control exercised by Moscow, and perhaps by Beijing, may not be at all complete. Consequently, transfers deserve more attention than they did during the cold war. A further problem is created by transfers of ballistic missile technology or components to a country which is friendly to the U.S. if that country should later turn hostile through a revolution or radical change in government. Even with the best intelligence in the world it is impossible to forecast fifteen years in advance such events as the Iranian revolution of the late 1970's, which turned a friendly state into a hostile one.

Because of these uncertainties we should study carefully the possibility of technically feasible threats, not only threats for which we actually see nations conducting tests and assembling components. One reasonable course of action, for example, would be for the government to assemble a small technical "red team" of bright young American scientists and engineers and let them see what could be assembled from internationally available technology and components. I would bet that we would be shocked at what they could show us about available capabilities in ballistic missiles. We should remember that by assessing only what we could actually see, we badly underestimated Iraq's efforts in the years before the Gulf War, especially with regard to weapons of mass destruction.

It may be that the President was relying on something other than this recent National Intelligence Estimate when he said, in vetoing the 1996 Defense Authorization Bill, that US intelligence "does not foresee" the existence of a ballistic missile threat to the US "in the coming decade". But to the degree that the President was extrapolating a general conclusion from the very limited part of the overall ballistic missile threat that appears to be assessed by this NIE, I believe that this was a serious error.

Finally, let me turn briefly to the current state of arms control negotiations as they might affect our BMD programs and to those programs themselves as set forth in the administration's proposed defense budget for 1997 -- also based, of course, on public reports.

A little over a year ago, my law partner and friend, Steve Hadley, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy in the Bush Administration, set out in testimony before the Congress the history of the negotiations in 1992 that followed President Yeltsin's January speeches of that year. President Yeltsin called for "a global system for protection of the world community [that could be] based on a reorientation of the U.S. SDI to make use of high technologies developed in Russia's defense complex."

Recently, according to press reports, the new Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Primakov, threatened to withhold Russian ratification of the START II Treaty unless the U.S. agreed to restrictions that could substantially limit even our theater ballistic missile defenses, in the context of distinguishing such theater systems from treaty-limited systems.

Among the many things that have changed since 1992 are that President Yeltsin is now surrounded by advisers, such as Mr. Korzhakov, Mr. Primakov, Mr. Barsukov, and others who have, shall we say, not yet established solid reputations as democratic reformers and are generally not inclined to promote cooperation with the U.S. Indeed several of these advisers have very close ties to either the rulers of rogue states that are at the heart of our proliferation concerns, to the most unreconstructed portions of the old communist establishment, especially hard-line elements of the military and industrial managers who produce military hardware, or to all of the above. Their reasons for wanting to limit cooperation with the U.S. are obvious -- such cooperation endangers their ability to use nationalism and calls for autarky in order to enhance their status, control of resources, and power.

But whatever the reasons, the shift during these four years from Russian willingness to propose overall cooperation with the United States on ballistic missile defenses to Mr. Primakov's recent effort to undermine the effectiveness of our theater ballistic missile defense programs is quite striking. We may see a sharpening of such hostility even if President Yeltsin is re-elected in June. If the Communist candidate, Mr. Zyuganov, is elected, we can count on it.

During these same four years, the Russians have expressed substantial disagreement with one particular aspect of the treaty that I negotiated in 1990, covering conventional armed forces in Europe (CFE) -- the special limitations that apply to the Russians' share of their total conventional armed forces that they can deploy to their northern and southern flanks. The United States has worked with its NATO allies during the last year to find ways, by making certain adjustments in the map defining the CFE flank zones, to accommodate some of the Russian concerns. I have no quarrel with these efforts to date, because they have been coordinated with our NATO allies, especially Turkey and Norway, who are principally interested in these particular limitations, and because the administration has indicated that it will seek Congressional approval for any map changes.

The point is that we are being quite reasonable with respect to CFE Treaty adjustments, but Russia is headed the opposite direction with respect to adjustments to the ABM Treaty. The Russian government is now trying to make the ABM Treaty more restrictive on the U.S. -- for example, by trying to get us to agree to limitations on the speed of our theater ballistic missile interceptors. It is my understanding that the administration has resisted these Russian efforts, but it is unfortunate that -- again according to press reports -- we have apparently agreed to language that establishes interceptor speeds (below 3 kilometers per second) that would not violate the treaty. I hope and trust that we will continue to insist that faster interceptors (such as those that would be used for the Navy's Upper Tier theater defense system) are also treaty-compliant, but I am concerned that we have agreed to discuss interceptor speed at all. Limitations on the range and speed of targets for theater systems should be sufficient to establish that our theater systems are not being "tested in an ABM mode" in violation of the treaty.

I also have difficulty in understanding the reasons for adding other nations, such as other former Soviet Republics, to the ABM Treaty. Multilateralizing the Treaty will make it harder to amend and adjust it in order to accomplish the purposes President Yeltsin set out in 1992. The original purpose of the ABM Treaty was to prevent a Soviet ABM deployment that would endanger our ability to retaliate following a Soviet counterforce strike against the U.S. We fear no such a strike from, e.g., Byelorus. I see no reason why we are moving to make it harder to adjust the Treaty to the post-cold-war era rather than easier. Finally, I am quite disappointed that the administration's defense budget for 1997 delayed and cut the funding for the theater and national BMD programs that Congress has called for. I am sympathetic with the dilemma faced by the senior leaders of the Defense Department as they were forced to set priorities among BMD programs, given the fact that the funds available for defense procurement overall were less than two-thirds of the sustaining level of approximately $60 billion that was needed. The problem is not so much, in my view, the choices that the Defense Department leadership made in the face of these fiscal constraints. It is the constraints themselves.

Any overall assessment of the risks and needs facing the United States should. in my judgment, indicate the primary importance of a vigorous program for theater defenses (Navy Upper Tier and THAAD) and also the importance of a sound program to move toward some type of national defense (coupled with a diplomatic effort to increase, not decrease, the flexibility in the ABM Treaty). I would personally put the top priority at the present time on the theater defense programs, in addition to the shorter-range systems that are already being pursued. The reasons are set forth very well in last year's report by the Heritage Foundation, "Defending America." In general, much of the work on theater systems, particularly in connection with space-based sensors, is also relevant to national defenses.

I would defer for the time being the question whether we should consider withdrawing from the ABM Treaty. I believe that, with an appropriately firm negotiating approach to the Russians and with adequate funding for our own BMD programs, we should be able to accommodate our needs within the Treaty for some time if it is appropriately interpreted and, possibly, modified.

In 1992 we explored seriously with the Russians how we might move toward limited national defenses cooperatively with them so that both countries could be defended from a wide range of ballistic missile threats. With any reasonable Russian government, this approach should eventually bear fruit. As only one example, if we could reach agreement on returning to the ABM Treaty's original 1972 form (permitting two sites, not one, in each country), a thin national defense against most threats other than a large attack by Russia would be made substantially easier. As part of a combined approach we might be willing to supply the Russians, as well as other nations, with data from our space-based sensors such as Brilliant Eyes. This would substantially enhance the performance of their theater defense systems. Such a combined approach of treaty modification and cooperative programs would give us a few more years to assess the direction in which we want to move over the long run.

One final point. The Russians should be made aware that we expect them to be reasonable and that particularly their international conduct and military programs will be weighed by us as we make our long-term decisions about our approach toward the Treaty and cooperative programs. We have no reason to be hesitant to make clear to the Russian government what American needs and desires are. We are dealing from a position of strength. It was our cold-war adversaries' political and economic system that has been cast onto the ash-heap of history, not ours.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.