News

USIS Washington File

12 April 2000

Missile Defense Chief Says System Can Deal with Countermeasures

(Kadish rebuts critics in hearing before Senate Appropriations
Committee) (680)
By Ralph Dannheisser
Washington File Congressional Correspondent

Washington -- The U.S. Air Force general overseeing development of the
proposed national missile defense system says that a panel of
scientists urging abandonment of the project misses the point of the
effort.

The scientists, affiliated with the Union of Concerned Scientists and
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, released a study April 11
arguing that the proposed system, intended to protect the United
States against a ballistic missile attack by a rogue state, could be
thwarted by simple countermeasures.

Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee April 12,
however, Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish said this would be true only
if an enemy launched "high numbers of incoming warheads combined with
countermeasures." In such a case, he acknowledged, "you can overload
the system."

But Kadish, director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization,
stressed that the limited national missile defense system is
specifically intended to be used to protect against "a few tens" of
warheads. And in that scenario, he assured the senators, "We have ways
of getting into the counter-countermeasures issue that we believe will
be very effective."

Kadish said the system's testing program "is proceeding very well,"
notwithstanding a widely-publicized test failure last January, when an
interceptor missed its intended target.

"No one test ought to be the keystone of judging whether a particular
system will work," Kadish said.

He characterized the testing process as a series of "stepping stones"
on the way to potential deployment of the system. "We're walking
before we can run," he said, and "the test results out of this part of
the program will give us confidence" toward more complex and realistic
tests planned for later on. At least 17 more are planned before a
final design decision, which could come in 2003.

Program officials are convinced that "We don't have to invent things
at this point to make this system effective. What we have to do is
engineer it," Kadish said.

The January test was the second for the system. An earlier flight test
in October, 1999 was labeled a success when the interceptor hit a
dummy warhead in the skies over the Pacific Ocean.

A third test is scheduled for late June. Shortly after that one,
President Clinton is expected to decide whether to proceed with
construction of the defense system. If it is built, officials have
estimated, the total program cost would be at least $12,700 million
over the next six years and $30,200 million over the next 25 years.

Asked by Senator Robert Byrd (Democrat, West Virginia) what would
happen if the June test ended in a miss, Kadish responded that that
would "depend on why it missed." If the miss resulted because the
target did not show up as intended, for example, that would not
jeopardize progress, the general indicated. If, on the other hand, "we
have a fundamental design failure," then that would require "an
intensive evaluation of the system to see what in the design we'd have
to change."

In an opening statement prepared for the committee hearing, Kadish
declared himself to be "more convinced than ever that effective
missile defense is crucial to the defense of the nation and its armed
forces" in the face of a missile threat that is "immediate and
growing."

As the July date for the Deployment Readiness Review setting the stage
for a presidential decision approaches, he said, the missile defense
testing program is achieving "notable and reassuring successes."

"While I expect significant complex technical and management
challenges in our program, it is demonstrating increasing success, and
I am confident that we are aggressively addressing the right issues at
the right time, " he said.

"I believe our missile defense programs can and will contribute
significantly in the very near future to our national security, and
that we are funding them accordingly," Kadish added.
 
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



Return to the Washington File