The system designed to defend American cities and towns against a nuclear attack by North Korea is “simply unable to protect the U.S. public” and will remain ineffective unless Congress exerts rigorous oversight, according to a new report. The report ...
The system designed to defend American cities and towns against a nuclear attack by North Korea is â€œsimply unable to protect the U.S. publicâ€ and will remain ineffective unless Congress exerts rigorous oversight, according to a new report.The report, to be released Thursday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, recommends that the Obama administration halt the expansion of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, known as GMD, until its technical problems have been solved.
â€œThe story of this system is a cautionary tale about how the lack of appropriate oversight of a politically charged missile defense program has led to a system in tatters,â€ said the report,Â written by three physicists with expertise in missile defense.â€œDespite more than a decade of development and a bill of $40 billion, the GMD system is simply unable to protect the U.S. public,â€™â€™ the authors wrote.
The GMD system is intended to thwart a â€œlimitedâ€ nuclear strike by a non-superpower adversary, such as North Korea or Iran.In the event of an attack, rocket interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force BaseÂ in Santa Barbara CountyÂ and Ft. Greely, Alaska, would be launched from underground silos. Once in space, the interceptors would separate from their booster rockets and attempt to slam into and â€œkillâ€ enemy warheads.Â The report notes that in â€œheavily scriptedâ€ flight tests that are â€œset up for success,â€ GMD interceptors haveÂ oftenÂ failed to hit mock enemy warheads.Â In the seven most recent tests, interceptors destroyed their targets just three times, the report says --Â a finding consistent with conclusions ofÂ the Pentagonâ€™s operational test and evaluation office.Personnel conducting the tests know the speed, location and trajectory of the target ahead of time, as well as when it will be launched â€“ information they would not have in a real attack.
The report relies extensively on articles published over the last two years by the Los Angeles Times, along with a National Academy of Sciences report and the findings of federal auditors and the Pentagon testÂ office.The report said members of Congress and Pentagon officials insisted on deploying and expanding the system at a rapid paceâ€”at the expense of sound procurement and engineering.â€œRepeatedly,â€Â the report said, â€œthe Pentagon has sacrificed quality, shortened engineering cycles and sidestepped acquisitions best practices to meet a deadline imposed by political rationales rather than technical realities.â€Pentagon officials have also made â€œunsubstantiated claims about the systemâ€™s effectiveness,â€ the report says, calling this â€œboth cynical and a disservice to the public.â€™â€™ The finding dovetails with a July 6 Times article about a GMD flight test held in January. The Times revealed that a crucial component stopped working during the test, causing an interceptor to fly far off course. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and two of its lead contractors nevertheless issued news releases that pronounced the test a success, with no mention of the malfunction.Asked for comment Â on theÂ report, agency spokesmanÂ Chris JohnsonÂ said the National Missile Defense Act of 1999 called for deployingÂ an effective system â€œas soon as was technologically possible.â€He added: â€œThis rapid deployment was a driving factor in delivering a ground-based interceptor capability with reliability challenges.â€Â The agency is trying to make the system more reliableÂ while staying â€œon trackâ€ to expandÂ theÂ fleet of interceptors, Johnson said.The Union of Concerned Scientists was formed in 1969 by students and faculty at MIT to resistÂ what they saw as the governmentâ€™s misuse of science and technology for military aims.In the 1980s, the group opposed President Reaganâ€™s Strategic Defense Initiative, the proposed space-based anti-missile system known as â€œStar Wars.â€ No such system was ever deployed, but efforts to create a missile shield continued. The GMD system was one of the results.The reportâ€™s lead author is Laura Grego, a Caltech-trained physicist who is a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The coauthors are physicists David Wright, also with the group, and George N. Lewis, a visiting scholar at Cornell University who gained attention for challenging the claimed success rate of rockets launched by Israel to intercept Iraqi missiles during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.The 60-page report, â€œShielded from Oversight:Â The Disastrous U.S. Approach to Strategic Missile Defense,â€ traces GMDâ€™s problems to President George W. Bushâ€™s decision to make the system operational in 2004 before the highly complex interceptors had been adequately tested.The report said that the Obama administration â€œhas continued a similarly lax approach to missile defense.â€For instance, the administration has kept in place Bushâ€™s decision exempting the Missile Defense Agency from standard Defense Department acquisition and testing procedures.With bipartisan support in Congress, Obama has directed the agency to expand the GMD fleetâ€”despite itsÂ technical shortcomingsâ€”from the present 30 interceptors to a total of 44 by the end of next year.â€œCongress and the administration should halt the deployment of additional interceptors until all known flaws have been eliminated from those additional interceptors and a testing program shows they are effective and reliable,â€ the report says.The physicists write that â€œthe continued development of the GMD system without adequate oversight and accountability, and the continued fielding of interceptors without adequate testing, means the system is not even on a path to achieving a useful ability to intercept ballistic missiles.â€Boeing Co. is the Pentagonâ€™s prime contractor for GMD. The interceptors are built by Raytheon Co. The component that malfunctioned during the January flight test, called a divert thruster, is manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc.firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @dwillmannewsMORE ON MISSILE DEFENSE
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