NEWS BRIEFING HELD BY THE COALITION TO REDUCE NUCLEAR DANGERS, THE FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS, THE UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS AND THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY WASHINGTON OFFICE
SUBJECT: TEST NUMBER THREE OF NINETEEN TESTS TO TEST TECHNOLOGY FOR POSSIBLE DEPLOYMENT OF A NATIONAL THEATER MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM
SPEAKERS: LISBETH GRONLUND, STAFF SCIENTIST, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS
HENRY KELLY, PRESIDENT, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS
DARYL KIMBALL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COALITION TO REDUCE NUCLEAR DANGERS
ROBERT PARK, DIRECTOR-WASHINGTON OFFICE, AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY
LOCATION: NATIONAL PRESS CLUB, WASHINGTON, D.C.
TIME: 9:32 A.M. EDT
DATE: THURSDAY, JULY 6, 2000
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. KIMBALL: Good morning and welcome to this morning's press briefing on the third national missile defense test and its role in President Clinton's decision on whether to deploy the limited ground-based national missile defense system that's been debated for the last several weeks.
I am Darryl Kimball. I am executive director of the Coalition To Reduce Nuclear Dangers. The coalition is an alliance of 17 Washington- and London-based arms-control and nonproliferation organizations. The coalition is co-convening this event along with the Federation of American Scientists, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Washington office of the American Physical Society.
President Clinton has said his decision on authorizing deployment of a national missile defense system will be based on four criteria: the readiness of the technology, the impact on arms control and international relations, the cost, and the nature of the ballistic missile threat. The key issue before the president and the nation is whether a decision to deploy the proposed national missile defense system is, on balance, in our national and the international security interests.
As the president prepares to announce his decision later this fall, he is under increasing pressure from military and diplomatic experts to defer the decision into the next administration. In addition, Republican and Democratic congressional leaders, as well as U.S. allies, and of course Russia and China, are urging President Clinton not to make a precipitous decision on NMD deployment.
Our purpose here this morning is to provide an independent perspective on the technical readiness of the system and specifically on the third test, which is due to take place sometime between 10:00 p.m. tomorrow night and 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning. This third test will be the last before the Pentagon's "Deployment Readiness Review," which is due sometime later this summer and the president's deployment decision sometime later this fall.
In addition, with the unveiling of a letter today to the president, we also hope to communicate that it's the view of a broad segment of the independent, scientific and technical community that there are serious technical and national security flaws associated with the national missile defense scheme that the Clinton-Gore administration is moving ahead with, flaws that lead us to believe that the president should not make any move towards deployment of the system at this time.
Our panel this morning will address these and other issues in detail. And with me this morning are Henry Kelly, to my left, president of the Federation of American Scientists. Dr. Kelly is a physicist and was the assistant director of technology at the Office of Science and Technology Policy and has served at the Office of Technology Assessment, the Department of Energy, and the Arms Control Disarmament Agency, where he worked on energy and arms control issues.
Also Elizabeth Gronlund, who is staff scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists and the MIT Security Studies Program. She is a co-author of a UCS-MIT report titled "Countermeasures, a Technical Evaluation of the Operational Effectiveness of the Planned U.S. National Missile Defense System."
And to my right is Robert Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland and the director of the Washington office of the American Physical Society, APS. APS is the leading professional organization of physicists, with 42,000 members worldwide.
After each of our panelists makes some brief opening remarks, we'll take your questions.
And if you could start us off, Dr. Kelly.
MR. KELLY: Thank you.
Today we're releasing a letter addressed to the president signed by 15 American Nobel laureates stating that any movement toward deployment of a ballistic missile system would be premature, wasteful and dangerous. The letter was drafted by Dr. Hans Bethe, who headed the group that designed the world's first nuclear bombs and was a senior adviser to many presidents on nuclear issues, including the design of anti-ballistic missile systems fired against systems using countermeasures. Bethe and other Manhattan scientists were among the founders of the Federation of American Scientists, the organization that I represent. It was founded in 1945.
The essential point of the letter is that there is an equation. The security benefits of this proposed system are at best dubious, while the dangers incurred by a hasty decision towards deployment are large and very real. They say that on balance, this system could do grave damage to American security.
The letter underscores the scientific community's skepticism about the technical feasibility of the defense systems, and particularly systems that are designed to attack warheads that are in outer space. They're skeptical about the difficult -- the enormous difficulty of trying to distinguish between a warhead and countermeasures that could be launched by any nation sufficiently technically capable to produce an intercontinental ballistic missile, and worried that there are other technologies that may have a much higher probability of success.
Now my colleagues will explain in greater detail the technical problems associated with developing an antiballistic missile system in this context. But I'd like to dwell briefly on the obvious costs that a movement towards deployment might incur.
First of all, the system could undermine the hard-won arms control agreements that we have with Russia, and we should not forget that the Antiballistic Missile Treaty has at its core the notion that only by controlling defensive increases, such -- defensive systems such as the antiballistic missile system being contemplated, can we get out of the perpetual spiral of offensives versus defensive in investments. This notion of cutting off this arms race lies at the core of our arms control policy and could be compromised by this kind of a system.
It could certainly frustrate efforts to place further controls on offensive missiles, through START II and early discussions on START III. Instead of using the end of the Cold War as an opportunity to bring final -- a structure of security built around reductions, we risk undermining not only the traditional forms of control but regimes that might bring other nations into this controlled regime.
It could certainly stimulate a Chinese missile buildup and encourage the Russians to maintain the dangerous launch-on warning system. And by appearing to separate U.S. defenses from the defenses of Europe, it could strain some of our most valuable security alliances.
In our view, there is no security emergency that forces us to make a hasty decision about a matter of this consequence, and sound technical and political reasons to believe a decision that would set in motion a process of deployment that could lead to the undermining of the ABM Treaty would be a serious mistake.
I must add, however, that some of the administration's opponents are advocating a much larger system that certainly could be much worse. At the end, we urge the president not to make any move towards deployment before carefully considering other technical and diplomatic alternatives.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you, Dr. Kelly. And Lisbeth, if you could come up next, please?
MS. GRONLUND: Good morning. I'm going to talk to you a little bit about this test in the context of the larger testing program and the issue of technical feasibility, which is what this test is supposed to tell us something about.
The test -- what's new about this test and the thing that's different about this test relative to the two previous intercept tests is that it will incorporate what's called the IFICS -- the In-Flight Interceptor Communications System, which is a ground-based station that is designed to allow the battle management center to communicate with the interceptor once the interceptor has flown out of the field of view. Okay? So that is what's different about this test relative to the two previous tests.
What's the same? The same is that the test will still not use a prototype booster. It will be using a surrogate booster to launch the kill vehicle into space, and this is an issue that was identified in an earlier Welch Panel report as a potentially serious issue because the real booster that they're planning to use will accelerate much faster than the surrogate booster that they're using, and will put a lot more stress on the kill vehicle as it's being boosted into outer space. So there's a question that is yet to be answered about whether the kill vehicle can tolerate the level of stress that the real booster, which will not be ready for use until the middle of next year, will be used. Okay? So that is not yet part of this test.
And the other thing that is the same between this test and the two previous tests is the target configuration. There will be a mock warhead -- it's conical in shape -- and there will be a spherical balloon decoy. The infrared signature and the physical appearance of the balloon decoy are very different from that of the mock warhead, okay? And I'll come back to that. That's actually rather important.
So, as Darryl mentioned, one of the criteria the president will use to make his decision is, Is this system technically feasible? What does that mean? What does technical feasibility mean? Unfortunately, it is a term that has become very ambiguous in its usage, at least in Washington. Now, what it should mean for any weapon system, for something to be technically feasible, it should mean whether it would work in the real world against a real threat, so in the case of a missile defense system, it should include an assessment of the kinds of countermeasures that an attacker could incorporate into their missiles when the missiles are first ready.
Now, as most of you know, there was a report released a few weeks ago by the Welch panel, the NMD independent review team, which looked at the technical feasibility of the system. And they defined "technical feasibility" as the "ability to defend against the" -- quote -- "defined C-1 threat." Okay? Those are quotes from that report.
Now, what is the "defined C-1 threat?" The C-1 threat is one that is defined to be "with no or simple countermeasures." What are "simple countermeasures"? Okay. According to the Pentagon, the kinds of simple countermeasures that are included in this defined threat are the sort that have already been tested against, namely a mock warhead and a balloon decoy of a very different physical appearance and infrared signature. So in other words, the "defined threat" that the Welch panel is talking about, and that this test will assess the ability of the system to defend against, is one in which the attacker makes no attempt to disguise the warhead and includes at most one balloon decoy with a physical appearance and infrared signature that is quite different from that of a warhead.
So really, the question of technical feasibility has been boiled down to whether or not "hit to kill" is technically feasible. Okay? And "hit to kill" is a piece of this missile defense system, necessary but not nearly sufficient. Now, the Pentagon's own assessment, the "Deployment Readiness Review" that will take place after this test, the DRR, is also only an assessment of the capability of the system against the "defined C-1 threat"; again, the threat with no realistic countermeasures. So in essence, the Pentagon is asking the wrong question to get the answer they want. They have defined the threat to be less than what it might actually be in the real world. Okay?
So what might the countermeasure threat be in the real world? We can get some sense of this by looking at the "Nineteen Ninety-Nine National Intelligence Estimate," which is the consensus document of the U.S. intelligence community, which stated that, "Emerging missile states could use" -- quote -- "readily available technology" -- end quote -- "to develop countermeasures" -- quote -- "by the time they flight-test their missiles." Moreover, the NIE, the "National Intelligence Estimate," also stated that China and Russia have developed numerous countermeasures and might be willing to sell the technologies to other countries.
Now interestingly enough, the Welch panel itself noted that the real threat is likely to be greater than the "defined C-1 threat" that they use in their report. They say that, "More advanced decoy suites are likely to escalate the discrimination challenge" and say that, "The NMD program requires critical attention to potential countermeasure challenges." This is right. It does require critical attention.
And the report that I'm a co-author of -- it's out on the table; it was released in April -- there are 11 physicists and engineers who wrote this, and we looked at examples of countermeasures that would be easier to do than building a long-range missile in the first place. Among the things we considered is we looked at an attacker that disguised the warhead by putting it inside a balloon and then released it along with lots of empty balloons.
So in other words, the Pentagon in this test is assuming that the attacker can deploy a balloon, but they haven't made the obvious next step. They have not assumed that the adversary would do the far simpler thing of putting the warhead in a balloon as well, okay? This is a critical, critical distinction.
Now the Pentagon says that it is doing simple tests now because it is trying to figure out if it can walk before it can run, and that it will ramp up and do more complicated tests.
On the back of my statement is a table, which you can refer to. This is a table from the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization that shows all the targets they're planning to use in their tests up through the deployment of the first phase of the system, okay? None of these targets include any disguise of the warhead itself. All right. And that is a very important -- a very important thing, okay?
There are balloon decoys of various sizes and shapes, and there are even some balloons that are made to appear conical, okay? But the warhead itself is left bare in all of these tests, okay? And you would to assume that, at a minimum, an attacker using decoys would disguise the warhead so it would make it much harder for the defense to distinguish between the warhead and the decoys.
So, in conclusion, I want to say that the test program -- and this test coming up on Friday will not tell the president anything that he needs to know about the real-world effectiveness of this system, about the technical feasibility of this system in the real world, before he makes a deployment decision. And such a deployment decision should not be made until information about technical feasibility is available.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you, Lisbeth.
MR. PARK: Good morning.
American physicists have a long involvement in technical issues concerning the defense and security of our nation. Many of the 42,000 physicists who make up the American Physical Society have contributed directly to nuclear missile and missile defense programs, or to the technologies on which such programs are dependent.
In May the APS released a statement opposing any decision on a missile defense unless it can be shown, through rigorous analysis and through realistic intercept tests, to be effective against the types of offensive countermeasures that an attacker could reasonably be expected to deploy. The NMD has not met these criteria, and cannot meet them in tomorrow's test.
For this reason, we're joining today with other scientists in recommending against deployment of a missile defense system regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's test. There is not yet enough evidence to show that the system will work, and this very limited test won't change that. It can only give us more reasons not to deploy at this time.
MR. KIMBALL: Thank you.
We're ready to take questions in a moment. Before we do, let me just note that in your packets is a copy of the Nobel laureates' statements as well as the American Physical Society statement; the executive summary of General Welch's reports on the NMD program; also a contact list of our experts who are available for interview is in the packet; and finally, we also have revised and updated copies of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers Council for a Livable World Briefing Book, "Pushing the Limits on National Missile Defense," by Stephen Young, who is also here in the front row if you have questions for him.
So, your questions, please. If you could also identify yourself before the question. Sir, in the back row?
Q Lars Nelson, New York Daily News. The Pentagon is suggesting that they have some secret ways being developed that will enable them to discriminate among the various decoys. Do you know, as physicists, of any possible way to discriminate --
MS. GRONLUND: Well, I mean, there are some things that can be secret, and you can't classify physics. So there's a limit to what the secrets could be that they're talking about. I don't know what they're talking about.
I think Kadish and Gansler have alluded to the ability of the x-band radar to discriminate based on mass differences. Now, outside the atmosphere, where there is no air resistance, objects of different masses travel on the same trajectory. Now, when they reenter the atmosphere, it becomes possible to tell the difference between a light-weight decoy and a heavy balloon with a warhead inside it, for example. But that only happens when reentry occurs, and this system is not capable of shooting down warheads once they have reentered. The kill vehicle itself cannot operate inside the atmosphere. So that is the closest that I can -- you know, that's the only thing I can think of that he is referring to.
Q Bill Small, Bloomberg. If I understood the way the Pentagon reacted from a story in the newspaper this morning, in essence they're saying that there are classified aspects of the system that you all are not privy to that leads it to believe that it would have worked better than you all allege. And they're saying that, in essence, you all are not privy to classified information on the nature of the threat. Would you all respond.
MS. GRONLUND: Yes, that is true, we are not privy to classified information on the nature of the threat. What we assumed in our report is that a country that had the wherewithal to build a long-range missile would also, and could also take far simpler steps to incorporate countermeasures onto that missile. And we basically agree with the national intelligence estimate that countries would use readily available technology to incorporate countermeasures by the time they flight test their missiles. So we looked at the basic physics of it and said, what is within the means of a country that had a long-range missile? You know, if you can build an ICBM, can you deploy Mylar balloons, can you put your warhead inside a Mylar balloon? Can you release chemical and biological weapons on lots of little bomblets? The answer is clearly yes.
Q And as far as the classified nature of the system's capabilities --
MS. GRONLUND: Well, in our report we assumed -- I mean, there are different restrictions on a system's capability. The first one is its physical limits imposed by the laws of physics, okay? Things can't fly faster than they can fly, and sensors can't see things which there's nothing to distinguish, and things like that, okay?
Then there are engineering limits, okay? What is the resolution of the sensor? And this has come up in questions concerning the first fly-by test. We actually assumed no engineering limitations in our system. We looked at the fully deployed system and we assumed that there were not any engineering limitations. We assumed that it worked perfectly, only limited by the law of physics, okay? So at that point, we don't really get into what is and isn't classified.
It may be that the system is not as capable as we assumed it was. For example, we assume that the infrared sensor on the kill vehicle could distinguish perfectly between decoys that look different from warheads. That may not be true, okay? We assumed it could do so perfectly, and that's why we assumed that the attacker would put the warhead inside a balloon. We made decoys for which there was no distinguishing physical characteristic. No matter how perfect the sensors were, there was nothing to tell the difference. So, I mean, we basically circumvented that problem of not having access to classified information by making very generous assumptions about the capability of the defense.
MR. KIMBALL: Just one more point on the information regarding the nature of the threats. There is a new national intelligence estimate which is due out relatively soon. There are some interesting press reports and there's been discussion in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week about the fact that many of the estimates at this time are based on, specifically, the capability, the physical capability, of certain states to develop and deliver ballistic missiles.
But there is some dissension within the ranks of the intelligence community, and there's clearly some questions among senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee about the inclusion of an analysis of the political motivations for states to use these ballistic missiles, that also needs to be put in the calculus.
Next question, please?
Q My name is John McWethy with ABC. Can we assume that you all agree that the basic task of hitting a bullet with a bullet, that interception, is something which is now technically feasible and can be done with a measure of reliability as a base -- as a baseline? Or is that something which you still feel is not something that the Pentagon, even with this test -- let's say this test is a success, maybe the next one will be a success -- but it's the baseline issue?
MS. GRONLUND: I'll take that. I think it's technically feasible. The Pentagon has demonstrated hit-to-kill. Whether it can be done reliably, I think is still an open question, and, you know, three tests cannot demonstrate reliability, even if all three were successful, which they haven't been.
But that is -- that is really a small issue in the bigger question of whether the whole system will work, okay? It's important and necessary, but not sufficient.
Q Then what do you say to the growing body of Republican senators who say, "Okay, we don't like this basic system that you're talking about either. We want one that's ten times the size of this, and then we'll feel much better, much safer"?
MR. KIMBALL: Henry, you had a comment, I think, on the previous question. Let's get back to that.
MR. KELLY: Well, I guess the central issue of, you know, is it possible to hit a bullet with a bullet, there is certainly no physical reason that you can't do that. The issue is, Can you conceive of an operational system that gives you acceptable reliability based around the kinds of systems being contemplated, either under the currently proposed BMDO system or one that's being proposed by some of the administration's critics. And the operational question is: "Given even a limited number of weapons being fired at you with the credible kinds of decoys in place, what is the probability that you're going to actually be able to cut the risk down to what's an 'acceptable level'?"
And the issue of what's an "acceptable level" is a very interesting one. And if in fact, you can't guarantee that none of these weapons will get through, you're going to end up with a rate of casualties that my colleague John Pike at AFS noted would -- one single leak would be equivalent to losing all the Americans we had ever lost in any war. Now, this is, you could say, marginally better than having 20 weapons detonate on U.S. soil; but surely that that's a very potent deterrent to American action. So the real question here is not, "Is it technically possible to hit a bullet with a bullet?" but, "Can you" -- under any plausible realistic scenario that we can imagine in the next 10 or 15 years -- "design a system that could actually give the president confidence that the U.S. wouldn't be running a grave risk of huge casualties?"
Q Can somebody address senators wanting to go bigger?
MR. KIMBALL: Yes. As you noted, the criticism of this limited system the Clinton administration is pursuing, has led to calls by some to develop a layered sea-, ground- and space-based system. I think that we would all agree that that system should be subject to the same careful scrutiny that this system is being given. We'll have to look at the costs. The estimates from the Congressional Budget Office in 1996 of that kind of system are that it would cost, conservatively speaking, about $120 billion. We'll have to look at the arms-control and international security impacts. I think it's fair to say that the impact of such system would be even greater than we are seeing with this so-called limited system.
And furthermore, such a wide-ranging layered system raises serious questions about what the purpose of such a defense is. Is it simply to defend the United States against a few tens of so-called rogue missiles? Or does it have grander purposes and designs, such as Ronald Reagan's Star Wars Program of the '80s, which was intended to provide a perfect shield against a massive attack from Russia, something which we found out in the '80s is impossible.
So it's hard to really comment on that in detail because there is no plan on the table; there are no specifics. And I think when that time comes, we'll see even greater criticism and more serious questions, if that date comes along.
MS. GRONLUND: Actually, I do want to say one thing, which is a lot of these plans propose putting interceptors on ships and increasing the number -- basically, it -- the basing mode is irrelevant to the question of whether or not the system will work. The kinds of problems that we've talked about here would apply equally to an interceptor that was launched from a ship, so long as its goal was to intercept in outer space, okay? It's where the intercept takes place.
MR. KIMBALL: Okay, Jonathan, and then over here.
Q Yes. Can you comment -- can someone comment on the probability or possibility that the president may only decide to let the contracts for Shemya -- for the Shemya radar and not go all the way to authorizing of the construction of a C-1 site itself, and what the impact of that might be?
MR. KIMBALL: Okay. All right. Yeah.
As you know, there are some press reports that suggest that President Clinton may try to have it both ways, that he may decide to move ahead with construction at the Shemya radar site in Alaska, which, according to the Clinton administration, must begin by the summer of 2001 in order to deploy this system by 2005. And I think that approach has some serious ramifications for the next president and for the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, because such a decision would put into motion the construction of this system, giving the next president the difficult decision, sometime early in his term, of either withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, notifying the Russians that we're going to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, or stopping construction or delaying construction of this system. So that kind of approach may solve Bill Clinton's difficult political dilemma of offending those who believe that this missile defense system is a waste of money, not technically feasible, and would harm our security interests and our international relations, and perhaps protecting Al Gore in the presidential election from Republican attacks that the Democrats are not doing enough to build a missile defense system.
So I think we need to look carefully at what the implications are and the kind of momentum that that's going to create in the next several months, beyond the immediate time frame that Bill Clinton is working in.
Q Doesn't he run up against the six-month requirement of the notification of pulling out of the ABM Treaty? If he lets the contract in September, he would have to give that notification; it wouldn't be because in fact -- because the administration accepts that construction of Shemya would be the trigger --
MR. KIMBALL: Well, one of the provisions of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 stipulates that if either party, the United States or Russia, wishes to withdraw from the treaty, they should provide six months' notification. Now, depending on when the Clinton administration and when Russia believes the United States might violate the ABM Treaty with the beginning of construction of the radar site at Shemya, that date backwards of six months notification may come during the Clinton administration or it may come in the first few weeks, perhaps the first few months, of the next administration.
And this decision about what constitutes a violation of the ABM Treaty apparently has not been made within the Clinton administration. This is one of the issues that President Clinton is going to have to decide upon. And I would caution against a broad interpretation of what constitutes a violation of the ABM Treaty. Construction is construction, and I think the international community is not going to swallow a Clinton decision to say that a violation of the ABM Treaty happened sometime after construction actually begins.
Q -- The Washington Post. Returning to strictly the question of technical feasibility, the Pentagon has said that it has considerable experience with the x-band radar in terms of distinguishing different kinds of objects in space, and believes that it has enough data on signatures, and has actually done it with its own tests at Kwajalein to distinguish sophisticated decoys from warheads. You seem to indicate the belief that that is scientifically impossible; if you could explain that, A.
And secondly, as you know, the Pentagon strategy for dealing with the threat you describe is to have multiple interceptors launched from bases at incoming targets, so if you miss, if you hit a decoy, you can launch four or five interceptors at any one flight, and then take a look and shoot another, and possibly a third flight of interceptors. Is it your argument that even launching as many as 12 interceptors at one set of targets coming in, that this system would be technically impossible?
And if I may add just one other thing, just to give the Pentagon its due, they're assuming that this is happening with the SBIRS-low and SBIRS-high systems adding further differentiation to it. Is there an argument that all this stuff will fail? I mean, you posed the point --
MS. GRONLUND: I know.
Q -- saying flatly none of this will work. And I would ask you to go through the specific measures they have stated that will work, they claim, will meet the threat that you describe.
MS. GRONLUND: Right. What we looked at in this report is the fully deployed system with all the X-band radars, the SBIRS-low satellite system of infrared sensors, everything they're planning to do. That is what we looked at.
Now, just for starters, one of the countermeasures we looked at is chemical and biological weapons on submunitions. The issue here is not one of discrimination. Okay? Each missile could easily launch a hundred bomblets. Each one is a real target. It's just a simple equation. Ten missiles, times 100 bomblets each, equals 1,000 on one hand, and you have 250 interceptors on the other. Now, that is an issue that they have skirted around, to say it politely. Okay? Now that is an issue that they have skirted around, to say it politely, okay? That's the first countermeasure, which, clearly, any number of x-band radars is not going to solve this problem.
The second countermeasure we looked at is one where you have decoys, and we considered a case where the attacker uses anti-simulation; in other words, they disguise the warhead by putting it inside a balloon. And we assume that each missile releases dozens of empty balloons, okay? The attack -- the size of the attack has been set by the Pentagon. They claim that the full system will be able to deal with tens of missiles, so we assume 10, okay? So even there, if you're shooting for -- and you said something about a dozen interceptors at -- it wasn't clear to me at what, but --
Q Well, there's --
MS. GRONLUND: I mean, there's a numbers game there that, you know, the balloons are very lightweight, but the attacker can't -- so when the -- so basically, once you accept that there are so many balloons that you have to discriminate, then you ask the question, Can you discriminate? And there are two basic means that the Pentagon has, the system has. One is infrared sensors, which is what are on these satellites, the SBIRS-low, and also on the kill vehicle itself, okay? That detects, broadly speaking, heat, okay?
And it turns out that the attacker can very readily make balloons that have the same temperature profile, whether or not there is a warhead inside of it. In outer space, the temperature of, for example, a spherical balloon does not depend -- it depends on the material that is used to coat it. And you can set, the attacker can set the temperature over a wide range of temperatures, by painting it different -- using different paints, okay? I mean, I'm seriously talking about spray painting. And so the attacker can deploy a lot of balloons which have no difference in the infrared signature, so it doesn't matter how sensitive these infrared sensors are. There is nothing to tell the difference. There is nothing to distinguish which balloon might or might not have the warhead.
So now we come to the x-band radar. The x-band radar can tell -- what it measures is position, with great accuracy, and it can also measure the velocity of each object with great accuracy. And it does so in the range direction, not in a cross-range direction, because it's basically shooting -- it's sending out radar waves and then they're bouncing back. So it gets information in a direction radial to where the radar is.
And if there is enough difference in the behavior of these objects, it might be able to tell -- well, first of all, if you did not go to all the trouble of putting the warhead inside the balloon, then you could tell the difference by shape. And my guess is that that's partly what the Pentagon says they've done, okay? I do not believe that they have used anti-simulation, that they have tried to disguise their test warheads, and that is really a very important, important issue.
So in fact, the Pentagon is assuming, to my knowledge, that they will have -- this is what happened in the first intercept test, if you'll recall -- (aside) -- am I going on too long?
MR. KIMBALL: No --
MS. GRONLUND: I am going on. But where you recall the kill vehicle saw the balloon decoy and said to itself, "I know that's not the warhead." Well, how did it know it wasn't the warhead? How did it know there wasn't a warhead in that balloon? Because it had been told exactly what the warhead was going to look like and exactly what the balloon decoy was going to look like. The trick is trying to figure it out if you don't know in advance what they look like, okay? And that is -- I don't believe the Pentagon is claiming they have done that. You should ask them, because that's the key. And so --
Q I just want to make sure -- you are acknowledging that the X-band can differentiate up to the point of any simulation?
MS. GRONLUND: No, I'm saying that the X-band radar can measure with exquisite accuracy the position and the velocity of objects in space, but that outside the atmosphere, they don't behave differently, okay? When they start to reenter, they do. So I don't believe that this is something that will help in discrimination in mid-course, which is what this system has to do, unless there are -- okay, the other thing that could happen is there are moments of inertia that determine how a system would be spinning. This is, again, not related to weight, okay, it's related to the distribution of the weight. And you could have a one-ton warhead that behaves the same way as a 5-kilogram balloon, so long as the weight distribution is the same, all right? So again, you can infer mass differences from the behavior, but not in a unique way. So it's not such a simple thing to do, and mainly it's possible once you start to reenter the atmosphere, and this system cannot intercept once -- okay, enough. I'm getting a sense enough. (Laughs.)
MR. KIMBALL: We've got several other questions.
Q The --
MR. KIMBALL: Would you identify yourself, please.
Q Jim Fry -- . And please forgive me if this question has been asked already. First of all, the Pentagon is saying that they're slowly increasing, through these tests, you know, the sophistication regarding the decoys. But in this particular test what they're saying is that they're really testing or seeing how well they can send the data up and that is what this test is doing. What do you say about that?
MR. PARK: Yes, that's what they're doing --
MS. GRONLUND: Yeah, I mean, they're testing the integration of these different components -- go ahead.
MR. PARK: Yeah, that's precisely what they're doing. And the question is, does that give you confidence that a system would work, and the answer is no. But I think the other thing that you -- you know, when you start talking about these additional layers of defense and putting on more layers and more interceptors, at some point you have to ask why they're going to insist on using that delivery system. I mean, a ballistic missile is not the only delivery system around. As far as I know, the Ryder rental truck has been proven effective in every case.
MR. KIMBALL: Other questions, please?
No one else? We have answered all your questions?
Q Hitoshi Omae, Nikkei newspaper, Japanese daily newspaper. In the letter you mentioned the situation --
MR. KIMBALL: You're referring to the Nobel Laureates' letter?
MR. KIMBALL: Yes.
Q -- assessment of the nature of the threat?
MR. KIMBALL: Henry?
MR. KELLY: I am not sure I completely understood the -- the Nobel laureates were reacting to the specific system that is being proposed by the Ballistic Missile Defense Office. But you're saying the nature of the threat?
MR. KELLY: Well, the -- (confers with colleague) -- well, I guess -- I know I can just read you the relevant paragraph from the letter, if you think that that's -- I hope I am being responsive to your question. But it says: "North Korea has taken dramatic steps towards reconciliation with South Korea. Other dangerous states will arise. But what would such a state gain by attacking the United States except its own destruction?"
This is in effect to underscore the core nature of deterrence; that anyone who attacks the United States through any means, whether it's through a Ryder truck or through a nuclear missile, is going to risk absolute devastating response. And I am not sure if that's responsive to your question.
MR. KELLY: Well, the stated threat that the U.S. system is responding to, is North Korea and other potentially dangerous states. And the core of the issue here is: "Is the technical capability of deploying a system by 2005 adequate basis to rush forward with the development and deployment of a system that carries with it so many risks, both technical risks and diplomatic risks?" Our judgment, obviously, is no. And there is a very large difference between theoretically having the ability to develop one of these technologies and actually building one that threatens the United States. You'd have to have the incentive to try to develop a system that would threaten the U.S. or its core interests, and that's not apparent at the moment. The core issue here is that we do have the time to make this decision with some care; that there is not an emergency that's forcing us to make a decision that could be, in retrospect, a mistake.
I guess one thing I'd like to add to some of the previous answers here on the issue of interceptors, is that; well, to get back to the core reason for controlling ballistic missile defense, originally through the treaty, is that, when you get down to the cost/benefits of offense versus defense -- every system we've ever seen -- it's always cheaper for the offense to find some way to confuse and defeat the defense than it is for the defense to respond to it. And you get into a perpetual cycle of saying: "Well, if we had more interceptors, we could defeat more decoys. If we have submunitions, we'll deploy a larger system. Give us time, give us more money, and we'll develop it." This is a spiral we're precisely trying to avoid here, through taking advantage of the opportunities at the end of the Cold War. And it's the framework of negotiation leading to control precisely that kind of spiraling offensive-defensive race which, at least at the moment, it seems the defense always loses. It's precisely that contest that we're trying to avoid.
MR. KIMBALL: Any other questions? John?
Q Can you -- someone comment on what I guess critics would call the hysteria of the threat argument, that members of Congress who support this system seem unwilling to acknowledge any change in the threat, even though North Korea is being good now, by the time we could build this system, they may go back into the "bad child" camp? Is there a hysteria on the side of people who are pushing this? And are they putting blinders on for both the technical and the political arguments you are making?
MR. PARK: Yes. (Laughter.)
MR. KIMBALL: Well, I would just say that in this debate, there are many motivations behind the arguments that are used, and what the Congress. the president, and the public need to carefully look at is the range of factors that are going to affect whether a threat is going to emerge or not. We have been living with the threat of ballistic missile attack for some 35 years, with the Soviet Union. As Dr. Kelly said, there is the defense of nuclear deterrence, which itself is dangerous.
But we need to look at, as Senator John Kerry asked in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, what are the political-economic motivations of states like North Korea, Iran, Iraq in attacking the United States. Do that -- do those -- does that analysis support the conclusion that this threat is imminent and likely? And in that sense, I think that there is a good deal of hysteria, because that factor has been left out of the analysis. The analysis has focused simply on capability, and that bears a great deal more -- it deserves a lot more scrutiny in the weeks ahead.
And -- go ahead. And then I had -- we had one other question here.
Q Three of you are physicists, and yet there are physicists who have been working on this program who don't share your views of the limitations of this program. Could you talk about why that is? I mean, and what kind of debate is taking place within the world of science?
MS. GRONLUND: I think the physicists you are referring to are those employed by the Pentagon. I don't actually know of any physicists, I mean independent physicists, who have taken a point of view opposed to ours. And my guess is, if we asked people working on the inside on this system the same questions that we're asking the Pentagon, that they would not necessarily disagree with us. I think it's a question of what the question -- I mean, they are, right now, being asked to build a system that can do hit-to-kill against a defined C-1 threat, okay? So they have been given a task.
And our assessment is that that task is irrelevant to the real world, okay? Not that that task is undoable, but that they've been asked to do the wrong thing, and that if they're asked to do the thing that would matter, namely, build a system that could work against real-world countermeasures, that they couldn't do it. But that's not what they've been asked to do. So I don't -- I don't think it's fair to characterize it as a disagreement between physicists.
MR. KIMBALL: Bobby, you have a comment?
MR. PARK: Yeah. I think that you said it just perfectly. We have a lot of members of our society that work on these things, and they do a great job. And, you know, it's difficult work. They do it well, but it's not really relevant to the final question.
Q Do you speak for those physicists who are members of the society and are -- ?
MR. PARK: Obviously -- obviously, in a society of 42,000 members, they do not all agree on much of anything. But it is a society with an elected council and a representative system and, yeah, we get no complaints -- or very few -- from within the society on this position.
MS. GRONLUND: Bobby, you might want to say something about people on the council who themselves have long histories of experimentation --
MR. PARK: Oh, yeah.
MS. GRONLUND: Because 42,000 are not academics.
MR. PARK: They're not all academics. The society is roughly equal parts of academics, industry and government scientists, and so all these backgrounds are represented within the society and everybody speaks their mind. But certainly, we can't guarantee that all 42,000 will agree on anything.
MR. KIMBALL: Okay.
Q But just to be clear on the statement that you're making today on behalf of the society, you're simply questioning the technical feasibility of the system as it is, looking over the possibility that the society could support a system if it was proved to be technically feasible?
MR. PARK: If you can prove that the system -- that it's feasible, yes. Yeah. That's what we're asking for, is proof that it's feasible. But to make a decision to deploy before you have that proof, just makes no sense at all.
MR. KIMBALL: Okay. Any other questions?
MR. KIMBALL: David?
Q -- I have heard the argument from a couple people in BMDO that the X-band radar can detect the composition of the target. And I was wondering what the physics behind that was?
MR. KIMBALL: Do you want to go over that briefly --
MS. GRONLUND: Well, the only thing I can think of -- and jump in, Bob -- is that, if you can observe the motion, you can perhaps infer the mass. And if you can measure the size of the object, then you can make a judgment about the density and, hence, about the material.
Q Yeah. Is the essence of what they're saying -- they're saying that you can tell the difference between different objects; if they're metals, what type of composition, what type of elements --
MS. GRONLUND: I don't --
MR. PARK: I have no idea how they could do that.
MS. GRONLUND: Yeah. I don't -- I mean, certainly, that's not -- I mean -- an X-band radar sends out radar signals; it watches them come back. And because it knows exactly how many pulses there are, it can tell where something is, very accurately. And it can also measure the velocity. That's what it does. Anything else beyond that, you have to infer. Okay? You have to say: "Well, you know, based on the laws of physics, if this object had been, you know, weighing such and such, it would have been here. And instead, we measure it to be here. So perhaps the mass isn't this; it's that." Okay? I mean, there is a whole -- you know, you can infer various things. But there is no way that the radar itself measures the material. Okay? That's not what it does.
Q But that kind of inference is -- Even if you run simulations, you gather data "What is predictable behavior?" -- and you gather -- you know, observed data, based on what your -- if you have a sufficient database about what you expect the predicted behavior to be, you can draw judgments, right?
MS. GRONLUND: Yes. But in this case, there is not -- you know, again, you don't get that change in behavior until you get into the atmosphere. And at that point, it's too late. I mean, I really don't -- I mean, you should ask, you know, what they mean by this. It doesn't -- does not make any obvious sense.
MR. : I think --
MS. GRONLUND: (Chuckles.) Yeah. Right.
Q All the other suites of radar and intelligence-gathering things that they have, that they add to the data which the X-band radar is providing, does not give you any of that differentiation? Because that's what they keep saying; it's not just the X-band, it is the suite of intelligence-gathering capabilities that we have. The government doesn't -- they say they talk in the range of about a dozen different discrimination technologies --
MS. GRONLUND: Well, there aren't. There aren't a dozen. There's the X-band radar, and there are the infrared sensors.
MR. KIMBALL: Let me just also --
MS. GRONLUND: And then there are the early warning radars, which don't measure it nearly as accurately as the X-band. There are not a dozen, okay? There are not. And --
Q And what about light?
MS. GRONLUND: There is a visible sensor on the kill vehicle, which at this point is not used for homing; it is used for star-sighting. It is used to orient the kill vehicle, so that when the kill vehicle gets dropped off by the booster, it looks around and says, "Aha, here's where I am." Okay? But even so, even if there was -- if the physical appearance -- if the warhead is in the balloon, or if there's a hundred submunitions, it doesn't do you any good, okay?
I mean, I just want to go back to what the Welch panel said. Okay, they said that this system can -- is technically feasible against the defined C-1 threat. The defined C-1 threat does not include these things. Okay, Welch himself or themselves said, you know, more complicated decoy suites -- we'll need more, we need new things. Now what he was referring to, I don't know.
MR. KIMBALL: Henry, you want to come up? You had a brief comment on this?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. I guess, I mean, the point is that we see no physical characteristic that would allow you to distinguish between the anti-simulation techniques in this and the -- and a real warhead. And so there may be something we don't know about, but it's got to use the kind of physics that we're dubious about.
The bottom line here, though, is that if they do have a system that is capable of just making this distinction, it's not going to be proved by this test, and this test is not going to be the basis for making a judgment about whether it works or not. And therefore, committing yourself to a deployment decision on the basis of this test is -- remains unchanged by any theoretical capability.
Now, the problem we've got here is that they keep saying we have -- if we keep working on this we can solve it. And the danger here is that you're making the decision on the basis of these very simple tests. And to me it's sort of like, you know, the guy that comes up and is applying to the Atlanta Braves and says, "I've been able to get on base with a game of T-ball, but don't worry about it, with big league pitching, I'll practice." But, you know, if all you've got is the data against a very simple objective, it's very difficult to judge whether you're going to be able to learn more over the subsequent tests. It's not distinguished on the basis of this simple test.
Q Isn't the history of physics here exactly what you're talking about? They didn't know the Manhattan Project was going to yield an atomic bomb until they started working on it.
MR. KIMBALL: Let me just note something that Lisbeth mentioned about the Welch panel reports. General Welch acknowledged the problem that we're talking about, about target discrimination. He called for in the report, quote, " a well-defined, funded program to match the target decoy discrimination capability to future likely countermeasures." In other words, his panel is concerned about that the current system cannot deal with likely countermeasures, and he's suggesting increased funding to deal with this issue. So I don't think -- I think it's fair to say that we're not alone in having this question, and General Welch also has some questions about this. He has had access to this classified information that the Department of Defense keeps referring to.
Any other questions before we close? (No response.) Our speakers will be available afterwards.
I thank you all for coming. And I would note that in your packet are this contact information for each of the speakers and for other experts on the subject as you deal with this third missile flight test story in the coming days.
Thank you for coming.
[END OF PRESS CONFERENCE.]