News

National Missile Defense Program Remains High Risk
Levin and Bingaman Release New GAO Report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE			Levin contact: John Brennan 202-224-2472
July 7, 1998				Bingaman contact: Kristen Ludecke 202-224-1804

Washington--Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) today released a report they requested from the General Accounting Office on the U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system. The report reviewed the costs and risks involved in this multi-billion dollar program and determined that despite an addition of 100% in planned funding and an unrequested addition of $700 million for previous "risk reduction," the program's schedule and technical objectives remain high-risk.

According to Levin, "This report makes it clear that despite doubling the planned funding for National Missile Defense development, and despite the estimate that the system could eventually cost more than $28 billion, this is still a high risk program. That should give us reason to resist any suggestion to speed the program up, or to make any decision to deploy it before a number of critical issues have been considered, including proof that the technology works, that there is a sufficient threat, that the system is cost-effective, and that deployment would not jeopardize nuclear arms reductions. This report provides compelling evidence that we need to give the NMD program a chance to mature and prove itself, rather than pile on deployment pressures that are more likely to lead to failure."

Congress added $700 million to the NMD program to the funds requested by the Pentagon in fiscal years 1996 and 1997. Last year, the Pentagon doubled the estimated NMD development cost and added $2.3 billion to its five year spending plan for fiscal years 1998-2003. No deployment decision has been made, nor will one be made under the existing law until development has reached the status of assuring technical capability.

Last February, a Pentagon-sponsored panel, chaired by retired Air Force General Larry Welch, concluded that the NMD program was unlikely to meet its current schedule even with the added funds recieved, and called for restructuring the program to provide additional testing and additional time between testing to learn from the tests. This approach would give the program a better chance of success. The GAO report reinforces the Welch panel's findings.

"This new report is disturbing", said Bingaman. "After three years of development and more than $2.5 billion on this specific program, we don't even know what this system will look like, what it will cost or if it will work. We don't see a threat that would require deployment and we don't know what effect deployment would have on our overall security. We don't see an adequate test program in place, as the Welch panel demonstrated in February. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that we need a more deliberate and patient approach to the NMD program. America's taxpayers deserve some assurance that this program will work before we buy and deploy it."

Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Bingaman, the ranking Democrat on its Strategic Forces Subcommittee, requested the study last year after the Defense Department announced a 100 percent increase in planned funding for NMD development without detailed justification. The Committee is still waiting for a Pentagon report on NMD program funding that was due in February.

The GAO report is entitled "National Missile Defense: Even With Increased Funding Technical and Schedule Risks Are High", and its report number is GAO/NSIAD-98-153.

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