In Congress last week, Representative John Tierney, Chair of the House National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, convened the latter in a series of hearings to examine the US missile defense program: “What are the Prospects, what are the Costs? Oversight of Missile Defense (Part II).” Here’s the short answer – the costs are open-ended, the prospects suck, but the Bush Administration is still hell-bent on spending over $10 billion per year and compromising our national security in the process.
Three extraordinary expert witnesses were on hand to help sort through the smoke, mirrors and deception that defines the missile defense program – a weapons system Rep. Tierney pointed out that has already cost us $120 billion to $150 billion or more, and that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost a staggering additional $213 billion to $277 billion between now and 2025.
“In a time of economic hardship, budget deficits, and many pressing and expensive challenges – both foreign and domestic, we need to all ask ourselves… are we wisely spending the taxpayer’s money here; is there a real threat we are trying to guard against; and are we actually going to have something useful at the end of the day?” Rep. Tierney asked in his opening remarks.
Want an insider’s view? How about Dr. Philip Coyle III, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Director of Operational Test and Evaluation in the Department of Defense from 1994-2001, the longest-serving Director in the 20-year history of that office. He oversaw the testing and evaluation of over 200 defense acquisition systems and is currently the Senior Advisor to the Center for Defense Information.
Coyle testified that there’s no operational criteria whatsoever established to determine if the system is successful; the White House, Pentagon and Missile Defense Agency (MDA) give misleading information about the performance and perceived threat; the tests that have been done don’t demonstrate effectiveness against the most basic decoys and countermeasures or realistic operating conditions; the costs are “open-ended and there is no end in sight”; and the system undermines diplomacy as well as arms control and non-proliferation objectives.
“Decoys and countermeasures are the Achilles Heel of missile defense,” Coyle said. “If an enemy uses decoys and countermeasures, missile defense is like shooting a hole-in-one when the hole is going 17,000 mph and the green is covered with black circles the same size as the hole. The defender doesn’t know which target to aim for.”