News

NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE: STILL A BAD IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS NOT COME

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 15, 1998 Contact: John Isaacs (202) 543-4100 x.131 Washington, D.C...The report of the Rumsfeld Commission established by Congress to assess the ballistic missile threat to the United States makes a case why a ballistic missile threat to the United States could develop more quickly than had been anticipated by the intelligence community. With little doubt, proponents of national missile defense deployment will seize upon the report to advocate quick deployment of a defensive missile system. There are major flaws in the proponents' case, however; most notably, the U.S. has not been able to develop a workable missile defense system after 40 years of trying and spending $108 billion. The Republican quest for a national missile defense is all too reminiscent of France's building of the Maginot Line against a resurgent German army. National Missile Defense remains a bad idea whose time has not come:  Whatever the threat, after more than 40 years, the U.S. still has not been able to develop a workable defensive missile system against medium or long-range missiles. Recent testing of missile defenses has produced only four successes out of 18 tries. This failure to develop an effective missile defense comes despite spending some $108 billion since the program was first conceived four decades ago.  The Pentagon continues to develop a National Missile Defense in a hasty process that the Welch panel in February 1998 called "a rush to failure" and which the General Accounting Office last month labeled "high risk" [see quote on next page]  While it may have been difficult to know in advance that the Indian's were testing underground, above-ground ICBM tests are much more noticeable and subject to detection.  Only Russia, China, France and Great Britain have long range ballistic missiles capable of hitting the United States, and the French and British missiles are on submarines. North Korea's No Dong missile, for example, has a range of only about 800 kilometers. None of the countries that are potentially hostile to the United States that may be seeking to develop long-range missiles has even flight tested a missile that could hit the United States. Flight tests -- tests that can be easily detected -- will be necessary before deployment.  National missile defense (NMD) provides no defense against the most likely future attacks on U.S., which would not be delivered by missiles. The methods of delivery have already been demonstrated at the World Trade Center in New York, the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the subway in Tokyo.  Deployment of a national missile defense could reduce U.S. security by jeopardizing further cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.  It would be more cost effective to spend money on programs to reduce the most urgent proliferation threats, such as on the dismantlement of Russian warheads, making weapons-usable fissile material in the former Soviet republics more secure, strengthening the IAEA, and improving verification techniques. ==================================================================== General Accounting Office Report, June 23, 1998, "National Missile Defense -- Even With Increase Funding Technical and Schedule Risks are High" "Overall technical risk associated with a fiscal year 2003 deployment remains high because the amount of testing, although increased, is still limited compared to other programs. Even after the increase in the number of tests, the program manager told us that in his view, the planned flight test program is anemic. The program plans a maximum of 16-system level flight tests through the end of fiscal year 2003, the earliest planned deployment date. By contrast, the Safeguard program included 111 flight tests before the system became operational. Of these 111 tests, 70 were intercept tests, 58 of which were successful . . . Despite the additional activities, the risk of the program being completed on its current schedule is still high. Also, any decision in fiscal year 2000 to deploy an NMD system by 2003 would involve high technical risk because the associated compressed schedule will permit only limited testing of the system." # # # ___________________________________________________ John Isaacs President Council for a Livable World 110 Maryland Avenue, NE Suite 409 Washington, DC 20002 V: (202) 543-4100 x. 131 F: (202) 543-6297 http://www.clw.org/pub/clw/ ___________________________________________________