AT LONG LAST: POISED TO END AMERICA'S VULNERABILITY
TO BALLISTIC MISSILE ATTACK!
By Ambassador Henry F. Cooper
Finally, American engineers and scientists will be able to work freely to realize the vision stated 19 years ago by President Ronald Reagan--to end America's vulnerability to even a single ballistic missile and hopefully to leave the Cold War's Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine in the ash bin of history, along with the Soviet Union.
After 30 years during which the ABM Treaty banned developing and testing space-based, sea-based, air-based and mobile ground-based defenses, we will be able to develop and test the most effective ways to defend our country.
This momentous day will be remembered along with Ronald Reagan's "peace through strength" agenda that ended America's Cold War with the Soviet Union and especially the role played by his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).
His favorite ally, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, often said, "Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot," and observed, "SDI--widely criticized on the grounds that it threatened to undermine the peace--helped shorten the life of an implacable adversary, bringing an end to the Cold War and giving millions of citizens in Central Europe and Russia the chance of freedom and a better future."
But historians will also record that America remainrd defenseless against ballistic missiles into the 21th. century, in spite of great strides by the SDI program during the Reagan and first Bush Administrations. A footnote may record that the Clinton Administration scuttled the SDI program--and perhaps even Clinton's Defense Secretary Les Aspin's memorable 1993 phrase, "taking the stars out of Star Wars."
President Bush is actively seeking to fulfill his campaign promise to build effective defenses, "by the earliest possible date." June 13, 2002, can bring a revival of the best SDI programs--programs scuttled during the Clinton years--and to do so in a way that protects Americans at home as well as our overseas troops, friends, and allies.
Russia has the opportunity to join in this spirit of cooperation. President Bush clearly prefers such cooperation--and there are clear signs that it could happen.
For example, in early January, First Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff, General Yuri Baluyevsky, said the U.S. decision to build missile defenses "will not pose a threat to us in the next decade"--clearly a more relaxed attitude than other senior Russian officials have suggested. If a U.S.-Russia cooperative arrangement evolves within that decade, as President Bush clearly wishes to be the case, joint defenses would never be a threat to Russia.
General Baluyevsky, who leads Russia's delegation discussing these issues, confirmed they wish to extend ongoing exercises for defenses against short-range "tactical" ballistic missiles. Future exercises could involve the new Russian S-400 "Triumph" missile defense that could be deployed later this year to counter ballistic missiles with ranges up to about 3,500 kilometers (2,170 miles)--perhaps comparable to the U.S. THAAD system when it becomes operational in 2006. It joins the Israeli Arrow system--mostly paid for by the American taxpayer--as being substantially more effective than Patriot, America's only operational ballistic missile defense system, now deployed in several nations to protect our overseas troops, friends, and allies against short-range missile attack.
A joint system employing such capabilities could compose homeland defenses for Russia and our friends and allies, and it could be incorporated into a global defense that includes U.S. homeland defense. This could extend Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to build joint missile defense systems with the Western Europeans--to include all the NATO nations, including the U.S.A. and Canada on our side of the Atlantic.
Developing such cooperative procedures involving both U.S. and Russian homeland defenses is timely. The U.S.A. is working to build a limited U.S. homeland defense capability by as early as in 2004. And the Moscow Times recently reported that Moscow is planning to upgrade its Moscow A-135 missile defense system, first deployed in the 1960s and most recently previously improved in 1994.
In February, there were joint U.S.-Russian exercises at Schriever AFB, Colorado, in conjunction with the North American Aerospace Command. About 40 Russian officers and 150 U.S. military and civilian experts considered how to counter the missile threat from other countries. A similar 1998 exercise in Moscow also sought to deal with short-range and medium-range threatening missiles. But the cooperative measures being developed could also be used to deal with long-range missiles.
This is the positive view of how things could evolve. But all is not well with the U.S.-Russian relationship, and clearly Russia hopes to achieve new limitations on U.S. missile defense programs at the May 23-26 Summit in Moscow between Presidents Bush and Putin. Furthermore, the U.S.A. is not happy with Russia's interactions with other nations that are clearly seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction and missiles to deliver them. For example, Russia has indicated its intention to continue worrisome technology exports to Iran, which Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer says is likely to have nuclear weapons by 2005--with help from Russia and North Korea. And according to recent press reports, the Bush Administration has curtailed disarmament projects because of Russia's noncompliance with treaties banning chemical and biological weapons.
So, cooperation is possible. But a bumpy road ahead seems likely. President Bush seems determined to leave the ABM Treaty on June 13, and we at High Frontier hope he does, without more arms control or other political constraints on our development efforts. Stay tuned.
While President Bush presses ahead with his agenda to end the ABM Treaty and to build effective defenses as soon as possible, the political fight is far from over.
As indicated above, Russia may join in building a global defense, as then Russian President Boris Yeltsin actually proposed in 1992--a vision lost while the Clinton Administration focused on strengthening the ABM Treaty, rather than on building effective defenses banned by its terms. Rebuilding momentum that existed during the first Bush Administration is an important challenge.
President Bush is clearly doing his part to end the ABM Treaty and to revive a serious program to build effective defenses. The Treaty is to end on June 13, thanks to his commitment. And his budget for research and development for missile defense doubles that of the Clinton years. But the Capitol Hill battle goes on.
For example, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) recently complained in a Wall Street Journal interview that "there's a huge resource commitment that the Administration wants to make to this system. And it is, in my judgement, greater than is justified, given the likelihood of the threat." So he will do all he can, from his post as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to cut the budget and/or restrain the President's program.
And Senator Levin is not alone. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) has made it clear that he assigns a high priority to blocking the President's efforts to build effective defenses. So has Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), who, from his post as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, can influrnce the President's discussions with the Russians and friends and allies about working together to build effective defenses.
What can we do? High Frontier is working with other Conservative groups to inform America's state legislatures of the threat and the potential for ending America's vulnerability to even a single ballistic missile, and, in turn, the state legislatures are sending a message from the grassroots to the U.S. Congress that they want the U.S.A. to build a robust layered defense as soon as possible. Consider the following resolution, passed by the New Hampshire Legislature and sent to the President and Congressional leaders. A similar one is being considered in the Vermont Legislature, and other states are expected to follow. You might consider how you might get involved in your state.
WHEREAS, the People of New Hampshire are conscious of the State's as- sets and favorable future development for their children in other generations; and
WHEREAS, New Hampshire responded to the call at Bunker Hill with vol- unteers in the struggle for American independence and has contributed to national defense through its citizenry ever since; and
WHEREAS, the People of New Hampshire are aware of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their threat to New Hampshire, New England, and the United States; and
WHEREAS, the United States does not possess a means of defense against ballistic missiles, bearing warheads of mass destruction, launched by those who oppose American interests throughout the world; and
WHEREAS, New Hampshire is imperiled by the existing incapacity of na- tional self-defense against ballistic missile attack from hostile or accidental sources along with other States of the Union; in cosequence, New Hampshire asserts its leadership as one of fifty;
BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of New Hampshire respectfully re- quests the President of the United States to take all actions, within the considerable limits of technological resources of this great Un- ion, to protect New Hampshire, New England, and all the People of the United States from the threat of missile attack; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature of New Hampshire respectfully requests that the President of the United States act to allow the United States freedom to defend itself from missile attack, Treaties to the contrary notwithstanding; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature of New Hampshire conveys to the President and the Congress of the United States that national missile defense requires the deployment of the most robust system consisting of a land-based, sea-based, and space-based multi-layered architecture so that future threats will be adequately met or deterred.
During the Reagan and first Bush Administrations, Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) technology demonstration programs were directed to evaluate these options, because they were inherently flexible. They offered options to intercept attacking missiles early in their flight, beginning in the short boost-phase, while their rockets still burn and before they can release decoys and other counterneasures; through the much longer midcourse-phase, when they are in outer space and discrimination between decoys and real warheads is a critical problem; and into their re-entry, terminal-phase, when lightweight decoys are stripped away from the heavier warheads by the Earth's atmosphere.
The most effective near-term spaced-based interceptor concept, the Brilliant Pebbles system, was critically evaluated during the late 1980s, and became the first fully approved Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP) in 1990. For political reasons, largely associated with the ABM Treaty, this important program was sharply curtailed by the Democratic majority in Congress in 1991 and 1992, and then killed by the Clinton Administration in 1993.
If the Bush Administration is prepared to fight and win the political battle to build space-based defenses, the Brilliant Pebbles program can be revived within a year to build an initial operational capability within five years. But there is little, if any, corporate memory of the status of that important program nine years ago, and there appear to be few willing to take on the major political fight required to revive this most effective of all the SDI programs.
But at least sound engineers will be free to advocate testing such a concept after June 13, unless some agreement with the Russians precludes us from doing so.
There are fewer political obstacles to building sea-based defenses, in large measure because that capability is only an evolutionary improvement over existing sea-based systems designed for other purposes. For example, Aegis cruisers deployed around the world carry with them an impressive air defense capability, which can be given the capability to shoot down ballistic missiles as well as aircraft and cruise missiles. For relatively little additional investment, this capability, in which the American taxpayer has invested over $50 billion, can be given the capability to shoot down medium-range and long-range ballistic missiles.
The political/management problem with sea-based defenses is different from the space-based systems. During the Clinton years, sea-based defenses proceeded largely at the insistence of Congress, but they were "dumbed-down" to meet the ABM Treaty constraints, assuring they could not defend Americans at home, while they provided limited defenses for our overseas troops, friends, and allies.
In spite of these difficulties, the Navy Theater Wide system successfully intercepted a ballistic missile in late January, setting the stage for increasing the Pentagon's investment in sea-based defenses.
The Navy was prepared to lead such a revival last Summer when they suggested a staged way to begin defending the U.S.A. quickly: (1) For a few hundred million dollars, the Aegis system could be given a rudimentary boost-phase capability within 12 months, useful in some scenarios to shoot down North Korean missiles in their boost-phase, and this capability, in conjunction with existing coastal radar, could be used to help protect metropolitan areas from SCUDS launched from tramp steamers off our coasts; (2) For $42 billion more than currently programmed, the Navy Theater Wide program could begin protecting American cities within 2-3 years; (3) For another $10 billion, these near-term sea-based defenses could later be substantially improved.
The question remains: Will the Bush team really move out on sea-based and space-based defenses after June 13? Hope springs eternal!!!
Military Weaponry & International Security
U.S. National Security Strategy
Henry F. Cooper is Publisher of THE SHIELD--HIGH FRONTIER'S BI-MONTHLY NEWSLETTER, High Frontier, 2800 Shirlington Road, Suite 405, Arlington, Virginia, 22206, USA.
The Shield: High Frontier's Bi-Monthly Newsletter
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