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CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 13

 

STAR WARS AND THE ANTI-MISSILE SYSTEM: FROM REAGAN TO CLINTON

 

 

CONTENTS

THE REAGAN-BUSH YEARS

THE CLINTON YEARS

 

THE REAGAN-BUSH YEARS

 

Starting in 1976, the Pentagon sought interceptors so extraordinarily precise that nuclear intercontinental missiles would be rendered obsolete. The Pentagon's solution was to have the interceptor zero in on heat emanating from enemy warheads. An infrared seeker and a tiny computer would fire small jets, steering the hurtling mass of metal toward sure destruction. After seven years Reagan courted Congress to allocate billions of dollars for his new pet project which he coined the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or Star Wars. The objective was to construct a network of laser beams which would shoot down incoming enemy missiles. At the end of Reagan's eight years in the White House, over $30 billion had been spent on Star Wars, and there was virtually nothing to show for it.

Critics of Reagan's program immediately pointed out: (1) that it was technically unworkable; (2) that it violated an existing international treaty; and (3) that the actual chances of war were increased. An Interagency Intelligence Assessment of Possible Soviet Responses released soon after Reagan proposed Star Wars: "There will be a large variety of possible measures the Soviets can choose from to preserve the viability of their ballistic missile forces. Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) can be upgraded with new boosters, decoys, penetration aids, and multiple warheads. The signatures of these systems can be reduced and new launch techniques and basing schemes can be devised which make them less vulnerable to U.S. missile warning and defensive weapon systems. These systems can also be hardened or modified to reduce their vulnerability to directed energy weapons. The Soviets can employ other offensive systems, particularly manned bombers and long-range cruise missiles with improved penetration aids and stealth technologies, to assume a greater burden of the strategic offensive strike role and to exploit the weaknesses in U.S. air defense capabilities." This simply meant that Star Wars just would not work.

Opponents of Star Wars also pointed to the 1972 SALT I Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which stood as an obstacle in the development of the national missile defense system. This limits the United States and Russia from deploying anti-missile defenses at more than one site. The United States would legally have to abrogate the accord in order to move ahead with Star Wars. White House officials informed Russia's Yeltsin that their plan did not represent a commitment to deploy any anti-missile system and did not represent a change in the United States commitment to the ABM treaty.

SALT I clearly applied to large scale strategic anti-missile systems which were defined as tested against targets moving faster the two kilometers per second and above 40 kilometers in altitude. ICBMs move faster than two kilometers per second, and since space is slightly higher up than 40 kilometers, the treaty would apply to Star Wars. But the Reagan administration basically ignored the ABM treaty and justified the inception of Star Wars by loosely interpreted the treaty and stating that it did not apply to the new technology.

Critics of Star Wars maintained that its implementation would upset the balance of power between the superpowers and that it would encourage the Soviet Union to proliferate its nuclear arsenal. Hence, Moscow would need to maintain a credible threat to the United States and would be tempted to threaten a first strike in a crisis. This brinkmanship atmosphere would increase the risk of launching a nuclear war from both sides. Additionally, the ability to intercept only a small fraction of an opponent's missiles would not be a deterrent. It would, however, create an incentive for the opponent to build more missiles.

The CIA released secret documents in March 2001, showing how National Intelligence Council (NIC) reports NIC reports showed they continued to overestimate the Soviet missile buildup in the 1980s when President Reagan was promoting his Star Wars. (New York Times, March 10, 2001 and www.foia.ucia.gov)

A 1987 analysis of the Soviet Union's response options to Star Wars concluded that the Soviets were likely to pursue arms control measures to gain American concessions on the proposal. Many independent analysts believed that Reagan's vigorous and hugely expensive buildup of the United States military in the 1980s caused the downfall of the Soviet Union because Moscow was unable to match the Pentagon with a similar buildup. A September 1991 CIA analysis of the defense implications of a breakup of the Soviet Union concluded that a Russia without Ukraine and other republics would "retain the potential of a major military power."

FALSIFYING THE RESULTS OF TESTS. The first Star Wars took place in February 1983. A mock enemy warhead was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Thousands of miles away in the South Pacific, at Kwajalein Atoll, an interceptor of the Homing Overlay Experiment blasted off. It missed the warhead by a wide margin.

In June 1984, the Reagan administration boasted that an interceptor destroyed a mock target for the first time. "We successfully "hit a bullet with a bullet for the first time," according to General James Abrahamson of the Air Force and head of the Pentagon's anti- missile program. He said that the interceptor had worked by zeroing in on "a warhead with its inherent heat."

However, the Pentagon later admitted that the results of this 1984 SDI test were falsified. Also, four former Reagan administrators came forward and acknowledged that this test was rigged, that the data was falsified, and that the system was inoperable. Four former Reagan officials said that the deception program was approved by Secretary of Defense Weinberger who neither confirmed nor denied that he had given approval. The four former administration officials said that the purpose of the rigged test was to mislead the Soviet Union. It was crucial that this fourth test be successful, since the first three indicated the ineptness of Star Wars. One scientist said, "If we didn't perform it successfully, it would be a catastrophe. We rigged the test. We put a beacon with a certain frequency on the target vehicle. On the interceptor, we had a receiver." In effect, the target was talking to the missile and saying, "Here I am; come get me. The hit looked beautiful, so Congress didn't ask questions." However, this deceptive information persuaded Congress to continue to allocate more funds for Star Wars.

The GAO reported years later that the Pentagon had actually raised that heat artificially so the test was easier. The doctoring was done by heating the mock warhead before launch to 100 degrees. So in flight, the long warhead was instructed to fly sideways, exposing a greater surface area to the distant heat seeker. Investigators from the congressional accounting office reported later that the two decoys had been tethered to either side of the dummy warhead, and the interceptor's computer had been programmed to pick out the target in the middle. Officials at the congressional accounting office reported that dozens of public statements by DOD officials had failed to mention "the steps taken to enhance the target's signature."

The next test was conducted in January 1991, and it also was touted as a major success. It not only demolished a mock warhead but was said to have succeeded in ignoring two inflatable decoys. The ability to ignore false targets was considered crucial in anti- missile warfare, as belligerent nations were expected to scatter decoys and chaff around warheads in hopes of confusing and defeating any defense.

In 1992, another interceptor blasted off, only this time the system was allowed to try to freely distinguish between a mock warhead and a decoy. It missed both. In 1997, the Pentagon appointed a panel headed by Larry Welch, a former Air Force chief of staff. In a blistering report issued in February 1998, it concluded that the failures rooted in poor design and fabrication, lax management and lack of rigorous government oversight. Managers tended "to trivialize the causes of these costly failures," the panel said, adding that aggressive new test schedules had joined with such callousness to produce a "rush to failure."

In 1984 and 1991, the Pentagon claimed that interceptors succeeded in hitting targets. Lockheed Martin which was fined $15 million for the failure in March. DOD officials finally acknowledged that the tests had been conducted quietly and that some results had been exaggerated. The Pentagon later admitted that two of four was a more accurate portrayal.

By the end of the Reagan-Bush era, $40 billion had been pumped into the SDI program with most of the Pentagon checks being turned over to corporations such as Lockheed Martin. The Pentagon conducted a total of 16 times. Star Wars never did work. Space-based lasers did not work. Particle beams did not work.

 

THE CLINTON YEARS

 

After Clinton was inaugurated, he announced that the Star Wars program would be terminated. However, the truth eventually surfaced. SDI was not actually dead, but the program was revamped and placed under the jurisdiction of the Ballistic Missile Defense Office (BMDO) by Defense Secretary Les Aspin. The "Star Wars" program was renamed the National Missile Defense System (NMD). Congress initially appropriated nearly $4 billion for the new program with cost estimates ranging from the Pentagon's $36 billion to the General Accounting Office's $60 billion by the time deployment would be completed. Contractors for NMD were Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and TRW. These corporations received more than $2.2 billion in missile-defense research-and-development money over a span of 21 months, according to a report issued by the World Policy Institute. In 1997 and 1998, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and TRW spent $35 million on lobbying. Boeing even considered running a television campaign touting the need for missile defense.

The Pentagon hoped to perfect a kill vehicle that carries two heat sensors and an electro-optical eye that help it find the warhead. Small rocket thrusters enabled it to maneuver. If all went as planned, the craft could distinguish the warhead from any nearby decoys and ram it head-on, reducing it to a shower of tiny particles. NMD relied on a network of five Defense Support Program satellites to detect enemy missiles. These sensors, which registered the intense heat of a missile's engines in the Eastern Hemisphere, were upgraded five times since their introduction in the 1970s. The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) was a network of sophisticated high- and low-altitude satellites designed to simultaneously track hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of warheads and other objects. While infrared sensors could pinpoint a missile's location to within about 10 miles, the theory was that they would be able to track them to an area the size of a football stadium.

Unlike earlier sensors, SBIRS allowed the defenders to track missiles through their entire flights. The key was the capacity of SBIRS' two dozen lower-altitude satellites to "see" warheads after their rocket engines burn out when they were cooler and far harder to find in the cold void of space. Once in space, the 130-pound "kill vehicle" atop the interceptor rocket would break free and, using sensors and tiny thruster rockets, maneuver its way into the path of the target. A collision, at about 15,000 mph, would reduce both vehicles to particles of dust. Proponents of NMD claimed that this technology allowed the interceptor missile to be fired early in the attack, increasing the odds of success.

NMD also relied on advanced radars which were originally designed to detect clusters of objects at great distances without providing much detail. In their upgraded form, they were designed to track not just clusters but individual objects at distances of more than 2,000 miles. Far more sophisticated were the new "X-band" radars which used very high frequency radar waves to gather highly detailed information at distances of more than 1,000 miles.

The Pentagon's goal was to implement a high-powered "X-band" radar system on Alaska's Shemya Island and deploy 100 anti-missile interceptors by 2005, as well as in North Dakota by 2010. The DOD maintained that this plan would not have posed a risk to Russia, because they could easily overwhelm the defenses with their sizable missile force. The Pentagon said that they would be used to block missiles which might be launched intentionally by rogue nations such as North Korea or Iran -- or by Russia and China. The Clinton administration pointed to Iran's test of an intermediate-range missile and North Korea launch of a three-stage rocket capable of striking Alaska and Hawaii a year earlier.

In 1997, Pentagon officials named the defense system the "three-plus- three" program -- three years assessing the program and then three years deciding whether to deploy it. The DOD claimed that they were convinced that a nuclear threat was real and that they needed to change three criteria to perfect the anti-missile system. Their goals were to finance the program, revise their arms-control treaty obligations, and overcome the technical challenges of the system. The Pentagon moved the target date of deployment from 2003 to 2005. The timetable called for the Pentagon and White House to decide in June 2000 whether it will deploy the system, even though tests on some key components would not be completed for three more years. The Pentagon asked for $6.6 billion for deployment of the system in the department's long- term, six year budget.

In 1997, the Pentagon appointed a panel headed by Larry Welch, a former Air Force chief of staff. In a blistering report issued in February 1998, the DOD concluded that the failures rooted in poor design and fabrication, lax management and lack of rigorous government oversight. Managers tended "to trivialize the causes of these costly failures," the panel said, adding that aggressive new test schedules had joined with such callousness to produce a "rush to failure."

The anti-missile program gained increased political momentum since the Pentagon claimed unfriendly countries were developing advanced missile systems. The DOD pointed to North Korea which test-fired an advanced three-stage Taepo Dong 1 missile in August 1998. Pentagon officials claimed that North Korea was working on a successor missile with a 3,600-mile range, sufficient to reach Alaska and Hawaii. Additionally, the Pentagon said that Iran tested an intermediate-range Shahab 3 missile, and DOD officials believed that they were only several years away from an intercontinental weapon. The Pentagon also feared the motives of Iraq as well as nearly two dozen countries believed to be trying to develop missile programs.

Secretary of Defense William Cohen said, "We affirm that there is a threat and the threat is growing. And it will pose a danger not only to our troops but also to Americans here at home." Air Force General Lester Lyles, the Pentagon's top missile defense official, said: "As announced by Secretary Cohen, we've acknowledged that the threat is real and growing in the near future. That, essentially, leaves one major thing. Are we technologically ready to deploy such a system?"

The DOD asked for an additional $6.6 billion to possibly deploy a system by 2005. Political pressure was also applied by defense contractors working on the project. The Pentagon made missile defense its biggest research effort, spending nearly $4 billion a year to develop rockets, radar, heat-detecting sensors and even more futuristic technologies -- such as laser weapons -- to protect American troops abroad and civilians at home. Congress responded by appropriating $3.8 billion in 1998, and $23 billion more was earmarked for missile defense for the following five years. By the end of 1998, $100 billion had been spent on NMD -- about $45 billion of which had been appropriated since the Reagan administration.

Five other tests were conducted in the course of the next 12 months. All failed. The fifth failure in May 1998 resulted with the missile spinning out of control and crashing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The Pentagon unsuccessfully tested another anti-missile in March 1999. Lockheed Martin was fined $15 million for the failure. DOD officials finally acknowledged that the test had been conducted quietly and that some results had been exaggerated.

In March 1999, the anti-missile program received a gigantic boost when Congress overwhelmingly voted to deploy a national missile defense shield "as soon as technologically possible." The Senate voted 99-0 after conservative Republicans added language to placate Democrats. In order to win Democrats over to their side, Republicans added a measure whereby the United States would continue to work with Russia to resolve the two countries' commitment to the 1972 SALT I ABM treaty which limited the number of anti-missile installations around the perimeter of each country. Members of Congress agreed to continue to negotiate arms reductions with the Russians and pledged not to bypass the usual appropriations process to create the missile system. The bill also did not compel Clinton to deploy a system which was capable of shooting down incoming missiles before they could reach American targets. Yet it significantly increased pressure on the president to do so.

The DOD boasted that the next test over the New Mexico desert was successful. Pentagon officials announced that a 20 foot missile hit a test rocket and called it a potential breakthrough for "Star Wars" technology. It was reported as the first successful test. General Richard Davis said, "It's significant because it demonstrates that the technology can be made to work. "It is a major milestone, because this is our first successful intercept, but we still have a ways to go." Davis said the rocket had been designed to resemble a Scud ballistic missile like those fired by Iraq in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. A Pentagon spokesperson said that a missile flying at supersonic speed 24 miles to 60 miles above the White Sands Missile Range -- the exact altitude was not revealed -- hit and destroyed a test rocket fired minutes earlier.

Even though most Pentagon officials branded the test a "success" and "a watershed in the technological history of the United States," others claimed that little was accomplished. A spokesperson for the Union of Concerned Scientists said, "It is quite possible for a system to work well in tests and fail in the field." The group described the test as a "relatively trivial step."

Philip Coyle III, director of operational test and evaluation for the Pentagon, said that the tests were "highly scripted" and that there was no evidence to indicate that the anti-missile system could knock out incoming missiles. Coyle maintained that the tests differed from the conditions of a real attack in many important areas. First, he said that the tests were conducted in a relatively small area of the White Sands test area. Therefore, the Army was forced to use a target missile that flew a shorter path. This made it relatively easy to be located. Second, Coyle said that the test flight was "shaped and scripted" so the collision would occur in a relatively small area of the sky. Consequently, the debris did not fall in areas where it might do damage. Third, he pointed out that the anti-missile was merely a prototype that would never be used if and when the system was completed. Coyle said that future tests of the prototype should be conducted realistically before the Pentagon continues ahead to the final system. He suggested, for example, that the Pentagon should move its tests to the much larger Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshall Islands.

The GAO reported that the program still faced serious technical problems because of its reliance on parts that may be fault. The GAO report also stated that most of the components were produced before the reorganization of the program, when quality control was inadequate. According to a Lockheed Martin report, steps were taken to guarantee that the key parts would function in future tests. Lockheed Martin contended that only the seeker -- the part used to locate and track the target missile -- was built after 1996 when the quality controls were improved. After the fifth failed test in May 1998, Lockheed Martin reevaluated and retested the parts. However, the GAO contended that this was not a sufficient substitute for building parts with sufficient quality controls. The GAO also quoted the Pentagon's director for Operational Test and Evaluation as saying that until new equipment is built, "there is no reason to expect any improvement in the interceptor missiles' performance."

In mid-1999, the Pentagon terminated its tests in the New Mexico and turned to the Pacific where more realistic tests, at a cost of over $100 million each, could be conducted over a range of over 4,000 miles. The first of 19 planned tests over the Pacific occurred in October when a Minuteman missile with a dummy warhead was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Twenty minutes later, an interceptor missile, the "kill vehicle," was fired 4,300 miles away from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The interceptor missile was equipped with a computer, heat and optical sensors, telemetry equipment, and small rockets which allowed it to maneuver in space towards its target. The missiles reached an altitude of 140 miles above the earth and reached speeds of 15,000 miles per hour. Twenty minutes after the launchings, the Pentagon claimed that there was a direct hit over the central Pacific Ocean. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon boasted of its success, saying that "it will protect the whole United States" from accidental or limited nuclear attack if a decision is made to deploy such a system. Despite hailing the first test a success, the Pentagon later was forced to acknowledge that the "kill vehicle" initially had drifted off course and picked out the large bright decoy balloon instead of the mock warhead.

The Clinton administration suffered a major setback three months later. In the second Pacific test in January 2000, the "kill vehicle" launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base failed to destroy a surrogate enemy warhead. The two missiles streaked through the skies in opposite directions over the Pacific. Almost three minutes after liftoff, the interceptor's booster rocket was programmed to fall away and to leave the "exoatmospheric kill vehicle" to maneuver through space to find the target. However, it failed to find the Minuteman missile. The "kill vehicle" missed the target by 300 to 400 feet after a clogged cooling line interfered with the functioning of a sensor.

The Pentagon attempted to downplay the problem, saying that a simple plumbing leak foiled the test, delaying the next test of the anti-missile system for May. A Pentagon spokesman said that the mechanical glitch of a clogged cooling line was of minimal concern because it did involve the question the basic physics and design of the proposed anti- missile shield. The failure of the $100 million flight test threatened to upset Clinton's plan to decide whether to build the system increased the chances that Clinton would not deploy the national missile shield.

Coyle said that the Pentagon was under "unrealistic pressure" to meet an "artificial" deadline for recommending whether to deploy NMD. According to the New York Times (February 14, 2000), he said that the project was unfairly driven by the Clinton timetable to make a decision on deploying the anti-missile system by the summer of 2000. Coyle said, "Undue pressure has been placed on the program to meet an artificial decision point in the development process. This pattern has historically resulted in a negative effect on virtually every troubled DOD development program."

This conflicted with Secretary of Defense Cohen's statement a week before. Cohen had told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the project was "on track" and that he expected to tell Clinton in June whether the Pentagon believed the missile defense system was ready for deployment.

On March 20, the Pentagon announced a delay of approximately two months for its third Pacific test, delaying it for four months. The DOD said that it took several weeks to determine the cause of the last failure was a plumbing leak and that it would take several more weeks to remedy that problem. This also meant that the Clinton administration would again delay the decision as to whether NMD should be deployed.

Despite the failure of the test, Texas Governor George Bush while campaigning for the presidency made it clear that he supported the anti-missile system. In fact, Bush described pursuing a more expensive and poorly described anti-missile system than that proposed by Clinton. While Clinton anticipated deploying 100 anti-missiles in Alaska, Bush promoted a three-stage program: 100 missiles in Alaska followed by another 100 in North Dakota and finally a space-based system to knock out incoming warheads. Naturally, Russia and China interpreted this missile shield as one that would render all their offensive missiles impotent. Consequently, they would be compelled and justified in escalating the arms race.

The third test of NMD in July was all but branded a success in advance. A week earlier, Pentagon officials in Time (July 10, 2000) conceded that the test conditions would be far more favorable than an actual attack. The DOD played down the chances of a direct collision, saying that a flight test could be a success even without a direct hit by the "kill vehicle," provided other aspects of the system perform suitably. Crews firing the interceptor missile from the Far Pacific were given full knowledge of the launch, including the origin and power of the target missile. According to Time, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester said that all subsequent NMD tests until 2004 will have interceptor crews fully briefed on the "timing, direction, and counter measures" employed by in-coming missiles. Accordingly, critics said the third test was a misleading guide because it was taking place under conditions that do not reflect a real attack. They said that the decoy was not a true decoy but was more like a lure that attracts the kill vehicle to the real target, and that an adversary would use many decoys -- not one.

Despite all the leeway given to calling the test a success, it failed once again, resulting in another embarrassment for the Clinton administration. The interceptor missile from the Marshall Islands failed to hit a mock warhead launched 4,300 miles away in California. The Minuteman rocket containing a mock warhead and a decoy balloon was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Twenty-one minutes after that, a 54 inch, 130-pound "kill vehicle" was launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Instead of guiding itself to a collision with the incoming mock warhead in midflight, it missed.

In the first official government statement, Defense Secretary Cohen told the New York Times (July 10, 2000) that he would take another month to decide whether to recommend that Clinton proceed with the project's fast-track schedule. Colonel Rick Lehner, a Pentagon spokesman for NMD said, "We're going to press forward" for another test. He added, "We now have to go back and do a second-by-second analysis of the entire flight test to determine exactly why, after the second stage burnout, the booster did not send the electrical signal to the kill vehicle telling it to detach."

According to the New York Times (July 8, 2000), Air Force General Ronald Kadish, the director of the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, explained that the problem occurred when the kill vehicle did not separate from its booster in the second stage. An additional malfunction was that the decoy balloon attached to the mock warhead did not inflate as planned. Furthermore, Pentagon officials said that the interceptor rocket began to tumble off course as it streaked toward its dummy warhead target.

Other supporters of NMD downplayed the snafus, saying that they merely were routine developmental problems that have little bearing on whether the system will work. Retired Navy Vice Admiral J.D. Williams, a missile defense advocate at the Coalition to Defend America Now, contended there was no question that the technology will work. He said, "The technology is ready; it's the Clinton policy that isn't ready."

On the other hand, critics contended that the missile's components had been in use for decades. Luke Warren, of the Council for a Livable World, an arms control advocacy group, noted that the Pentagon simplified its flight tests and that it would be easy to brand its tests a success.

The test failure made it politically more difficult for Clinton to move forward with even the most basic decision to issue contracts for beginning construction of a radar guidance system in the Aleutian Islands. The test failure was also certain to influence Congress in deciding that the future of NMD be left to the next president. The missile failure also had a major impact on construction of radar sites in the Aleutian Islands. Because of harsh winter conditions in that area of Alaska, barges must begin ferrying equipment by spring if the radar is to be completed by 2005, the date when the administration concluded North Korea could have a ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States.

In late September, the Pentagon conducted two NMD tests, but the rocket flights did not include any attempt to shoot down warheads. The Pentagon said that two Air Force Minuteman-3 missiles were fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base toward Kwajalein Island in the Pacific to test the ability of a radar on Kwajalein to discriminate between targets in space and to test electronic integration of the anti-missile system.

CRITICS OF NMD. In September 1999, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), a CIA advisory panel, released a report entitled "Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015." The report castigated the effectiveness of NMD. It read: "We project that during the next 15 years the United States most likely will face ICBM threats from Russia, China, and North Korea, probably from Iran, and possibly from Iraq. ... The Russian threat, although significantly reduced, will continue to be the most robust and lethal, considerably more so than that posed by China, and orders of magnitude more than that potentially posed by other nations."

The NIC was not concerned with the rogue states, presumably because the council could not cite their specific nuclear programs. Syria and Libya were not even listed. The main threat came from Russia which already had the bulk of the old Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal. And with the nuclear capability of lobbing thousands of warheads into the United States, NMD would be a boondoggle.

NMD was solely aimed at striking incoming missiles. Yet the NIC conceded that countries could build vehicles other than missiles to deliver nuclear warheads. These could be more reliable than ICBMs that would go through decades of testing, upgrading, and certification. Rogue nations could threaten the United States in more effective ways such as disseminating biological warfare agents. Thus, NMD would be rendered useless. Biological and chemical weapons are too large to be delivered on ballistic missiles. Instead, these weapons would be transported more easily by ship, truck, or airplane.

The NIC report even conceded that ballistic missiles were not a viable method of delivering weapons. "We assess that countries developing ballistic missiles would also develop various responses to US theater and national defenses. Russia and China each have developed numerous countermeasures and probably are willing to sell the requisite technologies. Many countries, such as North Korea, Iran, and Iraq probably would rely initially on readily available technology -- including separating re-entry vehicles (RVs), spin-stabilized RVs, RV reorientation, radar absorbing material (RAM), booster fragmentation, low power jammers, chaff, and simple (balloon) decoys -- to develop penetration aids and countermeasures. These countries could develop countermeasures based on these technologies by the time they flight test their missiles.

Critics argued that enemy countries could foil the effectiveness of NMD by such countermeasures as the use of radar-absorbing materials or balloon decoys. Furthermore, they could simply send nuclear bombs into the United States on cargo ships or in suitcases. Critics of NMD also maintained that deployment of the system undermined SALT I, just as Star Wars did in the 1980s. But the Pentagon continued to set its own rules for judging the success of the test. They claimed that the Pentagon's "yardstick" was too low. John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World -- an arms control advocacy group in Washington D.C. -- maintained that the test was insufficient. "(It) is like saying that one test of an AIDS vaccine in a monkey proves the vaccines will be successful with humans." Instead of proceeding with NM, critics claimed that the United States should have proceeded with new arms control accords and tighter limits on technology transfer.

Moreover, critics maintained that a rogue nation which had the capability of delivering nuclear weapons on missiles would only have a few launchers. A nuclear weapon could be delivered to a world power more efficiently by ship or truck than by a missile. In order to avoid violating SALT I by deploying NMD, the Clinton administration made overtures to Russia in the fall of 1999 to amend or abrogate the treaty. The White House offered to help complete major defensive radar projects in Russia in exchange for an agreement to alter the 1972 ABM treaty. White House Chief of Staff John Podesta said that the United States' missile defense system "may necessitate adjustments in the (ABM) treaty." Podesta suggested that the United States could help Moscow complete its radar arrays near Irkutsk, Siberia. That system was set to be deployed across Russia's southeastern coast and would cover North Korea and other nations.

Just days later, Russian Foreign Ministry Vladimir Rakhmanin said that Moscow would not bargain over the ABM treaty. He said, "We aren't negotiating any kind of amendments to the ABM." General Valery Manilov, the first deputy chief of the Russian general staff, said, "There can be no compromise on this issue." The Russians said that radars, command and control systems, and satellites deployed under the American plan could serve as building blocks for a more comprehensive missile defense.

The Russian defense system, known as A-135, had the maximum of 100 interceptor missiles permitted by SALT I. The system had a dual defense against ballistic missiles. If Russian radars detected incoming missiles, the military could launch up to 36 longer-range SH- 11 Gorgon missiles. Should any missiles penetrate this layer, the system also had 64 short-range SH-08 Gazelle missiles which were quick-reaction and high-acceleration interceptors. Originally, the interceptors around Moscow were armed with low-yield nuclear warheads. The missiles were not intended to hit incoming missiles but rather to explode near them. However, news reports said that Russia removed the nuclear warheads from the interceptors around the capital.

In October 1999, the Russian military warned the United States that it had tremendous weaponry to overwhelm any ABM system. Moscow threatened to deploy more atomic warheads if the United States were to build a missile defense system. Nikolai Mikhailov, the first deputy defense minister, said, "Our arsenal has such technical capabilities to overcome any anti-missile defenses. This technology can realistically be used and will be used if the United States pushes us toward it." The objective of proliferating the Russian nuclear arsenal was to attempt to outnumber and penetrate any defensive shield constructed by the United States. Mikhailov said that it would be easier and less expensive for Russia to deploy more warheads on missiles than it would for the United States to implement an anti-missile defense system.

Analysts theorized that Russia could increase the number of warheads by slow the dismantlement of existing multiple-warhead missiles. Moscow could also turn the single-warhead Topol-M missile, now being deployed in limited numbers, into a three-warhead delivery system. The Topol-M allegedly has countermeasures against an anti-missile system. It has a lower trajectory and shorter engine burn which would help missiles evade an American missile tracking system. Yet Russia would have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to prolonging the life of existing missiles which have already passed the period in which they were to have been dismantled. Additionally, the Russian government does not have the resources to design and build new weapons. Even the most modern missile, the Topol-M, is being deployed at a rate of only 10 missiles a year.

In May 2000, Russia proceeded with an anti-missile test in an apparent attempt to head off an American decision to go ahead with NMD. A short-range interceptor missile failed in the first test. General Vladimir Yakovlev, commander of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, said that the launching at the Sary-Shagan testing ground in neighboring Kazakhstan was the first of its kind since 1993. The Russian government did not identify the test missile, but it was one of many which had been installed around Moscow after the 1972 ABM treaty. Yakovlev said the tests confirmed the combat readiness of the missile and that the Strategic Rocket Forces would extend its service life to 12 1/2 years which indicated that the test involved missiles which have been deployed for some time.

At the May Moscow summit with President Vladimir Putin, Clinton once again was hit with a barrage of criticism from the Russians. Putin proposed an alternative to the Clinton plan, suggesting that the United States and Russia collaborate on new ways to shoot down enemy missiles soon after they were launched -- rather than in space. Putin's proposal resembled the plan known in the United States as "boost phase defense," that would provide the United States, Europe, and Russia with the protection that the Clinton administration insisted it needs from rogue states. However, such a system would be of little use against the Russian nuclear force. That would make it far more acceptable to the Russian military, which has feared that a solely American missile defense would be used to gain a strategic edge.

In mid-July at a public signing ceremony, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Russian President Putin once again denounced the plans to build NMD and agreed to closer cooperation on international affairs. Among the five documents they and their aides signed, two took aim at the United States, singling out the proposed anti-missile defense system. As reported in the New York Times (July 18, 2000), Beijing and Moscow accused Washington of using the system "to seek unilateral military and security advantages that will pose the most grave, adverse consequences" to China, Russia, and the United States itself. Putin and Jiang urged Washington to adhere to SALT I and warned that altering the treaty "will trigger an arms race and lead to an about-face in the positive trend that appeared in world politics after the end of the Cold War." They pledged that their countries would cooperate to "defy hegemonism" and oppose attempts to "threaten others by force or to interfere in other countries' internal affairs." They also criticized an American proposal for a more limited anti-missile system to protect its troops and allies in East Asia which Beijing fears would undermine its claim to Taiwan.

The tests of the anti-missile system were designed to determine if the missile could knock down another missile while both were flying at 11,000 miles per hour. The first test of NMD occurred in June 1997. While the Pentagon hailed the test a success, Theodore Postol, a leading critic of NMD and a prominent Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, accused the TRW of falsifying the test results.

According to Newsweek (June 12, 2000), the interceptor in the first test in June 1997 had to pick out a warhead from eight decoys. While the Pentagon hailed the test as a success, Postol maintained that TRW's data showed that the sensor totally failed. So BMDO decided to abandon multiple warheads in its subsequent tests and used a single shiny silver balloon which, they hoped, would be easily spotted.

Postol first became famous for suggesting after the 1991 Gulf War that the Patriot air defense system was not as successful as the Army claimed. Working with George Lewis, another MIT professor, Postol analyzed news footage of more than 40 Patriot-Scud engagements frame-by-frame, about half of the Gulf War total. They concluded that not one Patriot appeared to have stopped a Scud from reaching the ground.

The Army and Raytheon, the company that built Patriot, responded with a barrage of criticism. Officials claimed that news footage was too coarse-grained to show anything; that the camera's shutter speed was too slow; and that the flashes did not correspond with the exploding Patriots. But soon, government investigators also began finding fault with Patriot. Both the General Accounting Office and Congressional Research Service found that Patriot's success rate was far lower than the 96 percent claimed by the Army. In a later review, the Army revised its own estimate of Patriot effectiveness down to 60 percent, even though the actual number was closer to zero.

ANOTHER FALSIFIED TEST. In 2000, Postol learned of a whistle-blower named Nira Schwartz who had sued her former employer, the defense contractor TRW. An engineer at TRW, Schwartz of Torrance was fired and subsequently sued the company. Her lawsuit included allegations that the company had faked work on the project to promote its product.

Later, in December 1997, after Schwartz had modified her lawsuit to include fraud allegations, Boeing and TRW made further disclosures. According to the report, they gave details of the sensor's high-false alarm rate, the shortcomings of the discrimination software and other problems.

Schwartz charged TRW had faked test results performed for the national missile defense program. Postol invited Schwartz to MIT, where she made her case to experts from the university and the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group opposed to the missile defense plan and dedicated to reducing nuclear arms. Schwartz’s central claim was that TRW’s kill vehicle, designed to identify and destroy an incoming missile, could not tell the difference between a real warhead and a decoy. Both the company and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization had declared the test of that capability a success. In June1997, officials from Boeing and TRW reported that their anti-missile “kill vehicle” prototype was tested successfully, even though it “had trouble finding its intended targets in space and couldn’t distinguish a mock warhead from decoys. The report also said the missile defense component operated “excellent” and was “success.” (Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2002)

Boeing and TRW disclosed additional information on the anti-missile system’s weaknesses in a report in April 1998. All these reports together were enough to fully brief the Pentagon on the kill vehicle’s capabilities, the GAO said. (Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2002)

TRW officials said the GAO found that in test reports presented in August 1997, the contractors cited only a few problems and called the sensor’s overall performance “excellent.” Pentagon officials told GAO investigators that the contractors also reported orally to them at the time that there were more problems in performance. But there was no written evidence of such disclosures, the GAO found. (Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2002)

In an April 2000 study, a group of missile defense critics -- including Postol -- argued that simple decoys could render almost any missile defense system useless. Eventually, TRW’s kill vehicle was dropped in favor of one built by Raytheon, which was reported to be able to distinguish warheads from decoys. However, Postol combed through TRW’s charts and tables and found abundant evidence to the contrary. It looked to him as if the report’s authors had ignored their own evidence to reach the conclusion the Pentagon wanted.

In April 2000, Postol wrote to White House chief of staff John Podesta about his discovery. He attached supporting documents, including the report. “I ... have discovered that the BMDO’s own data shows that the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) will be defeated by the simplest of balloon decoys. I also have documentation that shows that the BMDO, in coordination with its contractors, attempted to hide this fact.” Podesta passed the letter on to the BMDO which promptly classified it. Postol was livid. As far as he knew, nothing he had sent to the Pentagon was classified. In fact, the report Postol had gotten from Schwartz had the words “Unclassified Draft” all over it.

In a second memo to Podesta, Postol complained that the BMDO had no reason to classify the report or his letter except to silence him. Five weeks later, three Defense Security Service investigators showed up in Postol’s office. The four men adjourned to a conference room, where the investigators produced a folder labeled “Secret” and asked Postol to read its contents. Postol was unsure if they were legitimate inspectors, since they gave him information instead of trying to get it. If this “secret” folder contained information from the report that he needed to make his case, he would be obliged by that security clearance not to talk about it. According to a government report of the incident, Postol refused to look inside the folder. After some unpleasantness, the agents gave up and left.

The next day, Postol wrote Podesta a third time to complain that instead of responding to his first two letters, the government had sent agents to harass him: “It cannot be ruled out that this unannounced meeting was an attempt at intimidation. I would therefore appreciate it if you would have this matter fully investigated.”

Podesta responded in a handwritten note: “I must say that the overall impression you leave from your correspondence is that your brilliance is only exceeded by your arrogance. Rest assured that we are taking the issues you raised seriously and reviewing them at the highest levels.”

The General Accounting Office did investigate the agents’ visit. It concluded that the Defense Security Service had acted properly in classifying Pistol’s letter and the attached report, because a Pentagon lawyer had failed to blacken a few sensitive parts before passing the study on to Schwartz. The FBI also investigated and determined that TRW was not guilty of fraud.

Charging that the anti-missile tests were rigged. Postol said that the Pentagon knew it could not build an effective missile shield and planned to build one anyway, concealing the system’s ineffectiveness with unnecessary secrecy. Postol said that he finally deciphered the instructions TRW used to tell its kill vehicle how to distinguish between a real warhead and a decoy. He concluded that the instructions were useless and that in some situations they might even guarantee that the kill vehicle missed its target. Postol wrote the GAO, which was already investigating Schwartz’s claims against TRW. Again, his letter reached the missile defense office and was classified.

The Pentagon took its case to Postol’s employer. Valerie Heil of the Defense Security Service wrote two letters to MIT demanding the university confiscate the missile decoy report from Postol and investigate how he obtained it. But MIT refused to intervene. President Charles Vest responded with a public statement defending his professor’s right to criticize missile defense and expressing concern over the Pentagon’s attempt to reclassify public information. (Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2001; Newsweek, June 12, 2000)

Nearly five years after the questionable anti-missile test -- in March 2002 -- a General Accounting Office report concluded that said it found no fraud and said that, taken together, the contractors’ reports to the Pentagon did convey the test results and the system’s limitations. The GAO report found that the company had “acted properly” and had “neither withheld or manipulated key data.” (Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2002)

But the GAO faulted the contractors’ use of imprecise favorable language, saying that the use of subjective terms “increase the likelihood that test results would be interpreted in different ways, and might even be misunderstood.” (Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2002)

The GAO report came amidst the push by Bush to build the National Missile Defense system. It also came at a time when he was riding high in the polls as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks. In January 2002, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost of deploying the anti-missile system at between $23 billion and $68 billion or more, depending on the design. (Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2002)

While critics charged that the results of the 1997 test was fraudulent, the Pentagon and the defense contractors said the report was irrelevant because the Defense Department has since selected a different design for the system. Trying to legitimize the anti-missile test, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the missile defense program, said the GAO’s findings had no bearing on the antimissile effort since the component “hasn’t been part of this program for more than four years.” He said the TRW-Boeing component differed from the component now in use in several ways, including the sensors, the discrimination system, and the mathematical logic. Lehner also said that despite the TRW-Boeing kill vehicle’s problems, it did demonstrate that it had the fundamental capabilities required. Since it was the first flight test of the antimissile system, “you wouldn’t expect it all to be 100 percent. But it was on the right track.” (Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2002)

MORE NMD TESTS. Five other tests were conducted in the course of the next 12 months. All failed. The fifth failure in May 1998 resulted with the missile spinning out of control and crashing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The Pentagon unsuccessfully tested another anti-missile in March 1999. Lockheed Martin was fined $15 million for the failure. DOD officials finally acknowledged that the test had been conducted quietly and that some results had been exaggerated. In 2000, Postol learned of a whistle-blower named Dr. Nira Schwartz who had sued her former employer, the defense contractor TRW where she was employed as an engineer. Schwartz charged TRW had faked test results performed for the national missile defense program. Postol invited Schwartz to MIT, where she made her case to experts from the university and the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group opposed to the missile defense plan and dedicated to reducing nuclear arms. Schwartz's central claim was that TRW's kill vehicle, designed to identify and destroy an incoming missile, could not tell the difference between a real warhead and a decoy. Both the company and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization had declared a 1998 test of that capability a success.

In the spring of 2000, Schwartz brought a $500 million lawsuit against the federal district court. She showed that interceptor missiles would be incapable of distinguishing incoming warheads from harmless decoy balloons. Schwartz was hired by TRW to develop computer programs that would enable interceptors to distinguish between warheads and decoys. She asserted that TRW falsified tests and evaluations, and subsequently she was fired in 1996.

Postol, who had earlier denounced TRW for falsifying test data, concurred with Schwatz's study. According to the New York Times (May 19, 2000), Postol explained that the "kill vehicle" in space sees the decoy and the warhead as points of light, and then it attempts to pick out the warhead by examining how each fluctuates in time. However, he pointed out that the data from the first flight test indicated that the points of light fluctuate in a "varied and totally unpredictable way." As a result, he explained that there was "no fluctuating feature in the signals from decoys and warheads that could have been used to distinguish one from the other."

Pentagon officials responded sharply, contending that the June 1997 flight test that Postol analyzed relied on a different "kill vehicle" hardware to identify the warheads and decoys. Air Force Colonel Rick Lehner said that since 1998 a "kill vehicle" with two sensors -- instead of one -- had been had been used. Postol responded by saying that the choice of a "kill vehicle" was irrelevant to his hypothesis, since it concerned the signals that were emitted from the warhead and decoys.

In an April 2000 study, a group of missile defense critics -- including Postol -- argued that simple decoys could render almost any missile defense system useless. Eventually, TRW's kill vehicle was dropped in favor of one built by Raytheon, which was reported to be able to distinguish warheads from decoys. However, Postol combed through TRW's charts and tables and found abundant evidence to the contrary. It looked to him as if the report's authors had ignored their own evidence to reach the conclusion the Pentagon wanted.

In April 2000, Postol wrote to White House chief of staff John Podesta about his discovery. He attached supporting documents, including the report. "I ... have discovered that the BMDO's own data shows that the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) will be defeated by the simplest of balloon decoys. I also have documentation that shows that the BMDO, in coordination with its contractors, attempted to hide this fact." Podesta passed the letter on to the BMDO which promptly classified it. Postol was livid. As far as he knew, nothing he had sent to the Pentagon was classified. In fact, the report Postol had gotten from Schwartz had the words "Unclassified Draft" all over it.

In a second missive to Podesta, Postol complained that the BMDO had no reason to classify the report or his letter except to silence him. Five weeks later, three Defense Security Service investigators showed up in Postol's office. The four men adjourned to a conference room, where the investigators produced a folder labeled "Secret" and asked Postol to read its contents. Postol was unsure if they were legitimate inspectors, since they gave him information instead of trying to get it. If this "secret" folder contained information from the report that he needed to make his case, he would be obliged by that security clearance not to talk about it. According to a government report of the incident, Postol refused to look inside the folder. After some unpleasantness, the agents gave up and left.

The next day, Postol wrote Podesta a third time to complain that instead of responding to his first two letters, the government had sent agents to harass him: "It cannot be ruled out that this unannounced meeting was an attempt at intimidation. I would therefore appreciate it if you would have this matter fully investigated."

Podesta responded in a handwritten note: "I must say that the overall impression you leave from your correspondence is that your brilliance is only exceeded by your arrogance. Rest assured that we are taking the issues you raised seriously and reviewing them at the highest levels."

The General Accounting Office did investigate the agents' visit. It concluded that the Defense Security Service had acted properly in classifying Pistol's letter and the attached report, because a Pentagon lawyer had failed to blacken a few sensitive parts before passing the study on to Schwartz. The FBI also investigated and determined that TRW was not guilty of fraud.

Charging that the anti-missile tests were rigged. Postol said that the Pentagon knew it could not build an effective missile shield and planned to build one anyway, concealing the system's ineffectiveness with unnecessary secrecy. Postol said that he finally deciphered the instructions TRW used to tell its kill vehicle how to distinguish between a real warhead and a decoy. He concluded that the instructions were useless and that in some situations they might even guarantee that the kill vehicle missed its target. Postol wrote the GAO, which was already investigating Schwartz's claims against TRW. Again, his letter reached the missile defense office and was classified.

The Pentagon took its case to Postol's employer. Valerie Heil of the Defense Security Service wrote two letters to MIT demanding the university confiscate the missile decoy report from Postol and investigate how he obtained it. But MIT refused to intervene. President Charles Vest responded with a public statement defending his professor's right to criticize missile defense and expressing concern over the Pentagon's attempt to reclassify public information. (Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2001)

Critics argued that the proposed national missile defense could backfire and actually increase tensions between the United States and other leading global powers. In May the first critical government report was released. The National Intelligence Estimate reported that NMD could trigger a wave of destabilizing events around the world and possibly endanger relations with European allies. According to the New York Times (May 19, 2000), an American intelligence official said construction of the system would result in a series of political and military ripple effects among leading world powers. He said that it would likely result in a sharp buildup of strategic and medium-range nuclear missiles by China, India, and Pakistan and the further spread of missile technology in the Middle East. The report also stated that the threat of attack from North Korea when Pyongyang froze testing of the Taepo-Dong 2 ICBM after the White House proposed relaxing economic and diplomatic sanctions in 1999.

Even the CIA chimed in, concluding that Russia's overwhelming number of nuclear-tipped missiles would be no match for an American anti-missile system. Consequently, it was unlikely that Moscow would counter by increasing its nuclear arsenal. However, the CIA surprisingly predicted that China -- with just 20 CSS-4 ICBMs -- would lose its deterrent force. Consequently, the deployment of an American anti-missile system would push Beijing into proliferating production of ICBMs and warheads. Additionally, the CIA predicted that China would build several dozen mobile truck-based DF-31 missiles, which were first tested in 1999, as well as adding countermeasures such as booster fragmentation, low-power jammers, and chaff and simple decoys to confuse or evade American interceptors.

The CIA asserted that construction of the missile shield could lead to a domino-style nuclear arms buildup. Russia and China would begin selling nuclear weapons and technology to North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Moreover, India would be likely to increase its nuclear missile force if it detected a sharp buildup by China, its neighbor and longtime rival. That could lead to induce Pakistan, India's archenemy, to increase its own nuclear strike force.

Arms control and national security specialists also were concerned that the unilateral deployment of NMD would carry political and security costs so great that they would leave the United States more -- rather than less -- vulnerable to external attack. Unless Russia agreed to alter SALT I, they feared that deployment would seriously damage relations with Moscow and Beijing and strain ties with America's European allies. If Washington and Moscow reached an agreement, America's security still could be sharply diminished.

According to the New York Times (May 8, 2000), the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists predicted that the United States encouraged Russia to keep its entire strategic nuclear force of about 3,000 missiles on first alert as a way to reduce Moscow's anxiety about an American missile defense system. Joseph Cirincioni, an arms control specialist with the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, "Deployment will make the country less secure, not more secure. The (political and security) costs of deploying a national missile system unilaterally are extremely heavy and have to be paid for upfront, while the possible military benefits require the better part of a decade to appear. It's like a balloon mortgage. The big payment occurs immediately when you worsen relationships and existing security arrangements." Cornell University physicist Kurt Gottfried, who heads the Union of Concerned Scientists, also said that the anti-missile system had serious flaws. He asserted, "The proposed ... system will not work against the threats it is designed to face."

Critics also argued that the proposed national missile defense could backfire and actually increase tensions between the United States and other leading global powers. In May the first critical government report was released. The National Intelligence Estimate reported that NMD could trigger a wave of destabilizing events around the world and possibly endanger relations with European allies. According to the New York Times (May 19, 2000), an American intelligence official said construction of the system would result in a series of political and military ripple effects among leading world powers. He said that it would likely result in a sharp buildup of strategic and medium-range nuclear missiles by China, India, and Pakistan and the further spread of missile technology in the Middle East. The report also stated that the threat of attack from North Korea when Pyongyang froze testing of the Taepo-Dong 2 ICBM after the White House proposed relaxing economic and diplomatic sanctions in 1999. Forty-five American experts on China wrote Clinton urging him to delay his decision on building a national missile defense, saying the plans "are viewed by China as a sign of increased hostility toward their country."

When Clinton arrived in Germany for a state visit in June 2000, and he immediately faced criticism of his administration's proposal to build an anti-missile defense system. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder warned Clinton that the deployment of NMD could touch off a new arms race. According to the New York Times (June 2, 2000), Schroeder said that he had "concerns that we have to be very careful that any project does not re-trigger the process of a renewed arms race." In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung, Schroeder was even more forceful, saying, "Neither economically nor politically can we afford a new round of the arms race. No one can dispute the Americans' right to develop what they believe is right for national defense. On the other hand, we are partners in a common alliance."

President Kennedy's Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara pointed out that any attempt to erect a defense would lead to a proliferation of nuclear arsenals by other powers. In an interview with Global Viewpoint, published in the Los Angeles Times (June 5, 2000), McNamara said that in 1966 "it would be insane for them (the Soviet Union) to deploy it (an anti-missile system) just around Moscow and, therefore, concluded this was a first step toward a nation-side system." McNamara explained that the United States -- as well as the Soviet Union -- pursued a joint policy of no defense and limited the offensive build-up of weapons under SALT II in 1979.

More skepticism of NMD emerged in Washington in mid-2000. The GAO concluded that the anti-missile plan was based on uncertain assessments of potential threats and could face rising costs and delays, The Washington Post (June 17, 2000) reported. The report said that because of limitations on the Pentagon's ability to test all of the missile shields' components, it would hard to know whether the system would work during an attack. Analyzing the findings of studies conducted by the Pentagon and government agencies, the investigators said the technological uncertainties of the system greatly increased the prospects for delays, with each month of delay increasing costs by $124 million. In addition the GAO report said that the intelligence community was uncertain about what countermeasures countries such as North Korea or Iran would employ in attempting to defeat a missile defense system.

Coyle, director of tests and evaluation for the Pentagon, said that the tests were "highly scripted" and that there was no evidence to indicate that the anti-missile system could knock out incoming missiles. Coyle maintained that the tests differed from the conditions of a real attack in many important areas. First, he said that the tests were conducted in a relatively small area of the White Sands test area. Therefore, the Army was forced to use a target missile that flew a shorter path. This made it relatively easy to be located. Second, Coyle said that the test flight was "shaped and scripted" so the collision would occur in a relatively small area of the sky. Consequently, the debris did not fall in areas where it might do damage. Third, he pointed out that the anti-missile was merely a prototype that would never be used if and when the system was completed.

Coyle said that future tests of the prototype should be conducted realistically before the Pentagon continues ahead to the final system. He suggested, for example, that the Pentagon should move its tests to the much larger Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshall Islands.

In the spring of 2000, the GAO reported that the program still faced serious technical problems because of its reliance on parts that may be fault. The GAO report also stated that most of the components were produced before the reorganization of the program, when quality control was inadequate. According to a Lockheed Martin report, steps were taken to guarantee that the key parts would function in future tests. Lockheed Martin contended that only the seeker -- the part used to locate and track the target missile -- was built after 1996 when the quality controls were improved. After the fifth failed test in May 1998, Lockheed Martin reevaluated and retested the parts. However, the GAO contended that this was not a sufficient substitute for building parts with sufficient quality controls. The GAO also quoted the Pentagon's director for Operational Test and Evaluation as saying that until new equipment is built, "there is no reason to expect any improvement in the interceptor missiles' performance."

In early September, Clinton averted a diplomatic crisis by announcing that he would leave the decision on deployment of the anti-missile program to his successor. He said in the New York Times (September 2, 2000) that though the new technology was "promising, the system as a whole is not yet proven. We should not move forward unless we have absolute confidence the system will work."

Clinton's decision immediately won favorable reaction abroad. Russian President Putin remarked, "U.S. President Bill Clinton's decision not to take upon himself the responsibility for deploying the national anti-missile defense system is seen in Russia as a well- thought-out and responsible step." British Foreign Minister Robin Cook praised Clinton for a decision that "has taken careful account of the views of the United States' allies and international partners." French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said that Clinton's decision was "wise and reasonable."

But Clinton's move drew a strong negative reaction from some congressional Republicans. Arizona Senator Jon Kyl called the move "a capstone to a string of poor decisions that have left us defenseless against a growing threat."

A highly classified intelligence report, "Foreign Responses to U.S. National Missile Defense Deployment," warned that deploying an American national missile defense could prompt China to expand its nuclear arsenal tenfold and lead Russia to place multiple warheads on ballistic missiles that now carry only one. The report, a National Intelligence Estimate, represented the collective assessment of the nation's intelligence agencies, including the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research. .

Although the report reaffirmed that China and Russia publicly opposed the system, it offered a detailed analysis of how those two nations were likely to respond and suggested that the effects of an American decision to build a nuclear defense would extend around the globe from Europe to South Asia.

The report did not intend to predict with certainty how China, Russia, and other countries would respond, but rather simply laid out a range of responses. It warned that China would expand its relatively small arsenal of nuclear missiles to a quantity large enough to overwhelm the limited defensive system that the Clinton administration considered. According to the New York Times (August 10, 2000), one government official estimated that China could deploy up to 200 warheads by 2015, prompting India and Pakistan to respond with their own buildups.

The report suggested that the Russians could accept a trade-off that would strictly limit the American defensive system to 100 interceptor missiles based in Alaska. But without an agreement, Russia could respond by increasing the warheads on each missile. Although Russia's economy was unlikely to support a large buildup of its missile forces, officials said the report found that it could again deploy shorter-range missiles along its borders and resume adding multiple warheads to its ballistic missiles. The report also included an assessment that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea could develop ballistic missiles capable of hitting the United States by 2015.

At the same time, Defense Secretary Cohen postponed his recommendation to proceed with NMD, citing "a number of difficult issues" that still have to be resolved, the New York Times reported (August 8, 2000). Officials said the Pentagon had not reached a consensus on critical aspects of the program to build the anti-missile system. Those aspects included the costs of building the system, the building schedule, and the need for new tests, the officials said. Cohen said there was "no immediate or artificial deadline for a recommendation to the president," even though White House officials had previously indicated that Clinton would make his decision at this time. But Cohen indicated that the administration could begin work on the system -- clearing ground in Alaska to build an advanced radar station -- without violating SALT I.

THADD. Clinton also pushed for the $15 billion Army's Theater High-altitude Missile Defense System (THADD), developed by Lockheed Martin. THADD was a small scale "theater missile" defense program, aimed at protecting troops and equipment in the field from short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

 

In September 1998, Republican senators failed 59-41 -- one vote short of the 60 percent requirement -- to allocate more funds for THADD. All 55 Republicans and four Democrats -- Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut -- voted for the legislation. Despite Congress' refusal to provide more funds for THAAD, Clinton requested $7 billion over six years to continued research on the THAAD project despite five successive failures as well as other technological problems.

 

At the same time, the Pentagon was pushing ahead with the top secret National Test Flight Center flight center at Falcon Air Force Base in the Rockies. Military personnel researched how missiles could knock out incoming warheads from other countries. The computers were not connected to real interceptors because none had been designed.

 

Coyle said that the Pentagon was under "unrealistic pressure" to meet an "artificial" deadline for recommending whether to deploy the national missile defense system. According to the New York Times (February 14, 2000), Coyle said that the project was unfairly driven by the Clinton timetable to make a decision on deploying the anti-missile system by the summer of 2000. Coyle said, "Undue pressure has been placed on the program to meet an artificial decision point in the development process. This pattern has historically resulted in a negative effect on virtually every troubled DOD development program."

 

This conflicted with Secretary of Defense Cohen's statement a week before. Cohen told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the project was "on track" and that he expected to tell Clinton in June whether the Pentagon believed the missile defense system was ready for deployment.

 

On March 20, the Pentagon announced a delay of approximately two months in the next scheduled test. The DOD said that it took several weeks to determine that a plumbing leak was responsible for the failure of the previous test and that it would take several more weeks to remedy that problem. This also meant that the Clinton administration would again delay the decision as to whether the National Missile Defense system should be deployed. Meanwhile, Texas Governor George Bush made it clear that he supported the anti-missile system.

 

Additional opposition to the deployment of the National Missile Defense System emerged in June. More than 50 House Democrats urged the FBI on Thursday to investigate "serious allegations of fraud and cover-up" in development of a national missile defense system, according to the Los Angeles Times (June 23, 2000). Air Force General Ronald Kadish, in charge of developing the system, denied any deception and told Congress that such allegations already have been disproved.

 

Senate Majority Leader Lott said he was "not going to be outraged" if Clinton left a decision on the system to the next president. Lott was the first high ranking Republican to suggest that a delay might be acceptable.