Star Wars II: Here We Go Again | The Nation


Star Wars II: Here We Go Again

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Meanwhile, a blue-ribbon panel chaired by former Reagan Administration Secretary of the Air Force Gen. Larry Welch has issued two scathing critiques of NMD program management, the first of which pointed out that the NMD system was on a far tighter testing schedule than any recent weapons development program of comparable scale. It went on to charge that the program was on a headlong "rush to failure." The second Welch report, released this past November, strongly encouraged the Administration to push back its NMD deployment decision to avoid "regressing to a very high risk schedule." In February a report by Philip Coyle, the Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation, charged that the Pentagon was facing heavy pressure to "meet an artificial decision point in the development process."

Research assistance provided by the Nation Institute's Investigative Fund.

About the Author

Michelle Ciarrocca
Michelle Ciarrocca is the senior research associate of the arms-trade project at the New School University's World...
William D. Hartung
William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation and a member of...

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There is one final element distorting the NMD testing program: corporate greed. The major corporate players in the NMD testing program--Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon--all have serious and direct conflicts of interest, since the results of the tests they are helping to carry out will determine whether they start reaping multibillion-dollar missile defense contracts over the next few years. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon has tried to wave off charges of fraud involving TRW's NMD "hit to kill" vehicle by arguing that TRW's version has not been chosen for inclusion in the final NMD system. However, Bacon fails to mention that Boeing, which is now in charge of overall systems integration for the entire NMD project, designed the interceptor vehicle that has been the subject of the fraud allegations. Whether Boeing colluded with TRW's manipulation of test results or merely overlooked them, it doesn't bode well for its role as the principal monitoring agent for subcontractors. The fox is guarding the chicken coop: If Boeing is able to orchestrate a series of seemingly credible tests, it stands to make billions of dollars in production contracts for decades to come. This inherent conflict of interest at the heart of the NMD testing program is one of the factors that have led missile defense experts at MIT and the Union of Concerned Scientists to call for the appointment of an independent panel to assess the feasibility of missile defense before the President makes a deployment decision.

Boeing is not the only company with an interest in helping the Pentagon put the best face on the NMD program. Lockheed Martin, whose "legacy" company, Lockheed Aircraft, was in charge of the 1984 Homing Overlay Experiment, which was later exposed as fraudulent, brags in a recent edition of its company newsletter, Lockheed Martin Today, that it produces the rockets used to propel both the mock warhead and the "kill vehicle" involved in NMD "hit to kill" tests. This is certainly a convenient setup if the company and the BMDO are thinking of stacking the deck on the next intercept test to insure a successful result.

Of the four largest NMD contractors (the others are Boeing, Raytheon and TRW), Lockheed Martin has the most to gain. If US/Russian arms-reduction talks are stymied by US stubbornness on NMD, Lockheed Martin will be able to sustain its key nuclear weapons programs. And if NMD deployment moves forward, Lockheed Martin will receive billions in additional funding for production of numerous components and subcomponents of the national missile defense system.

Given what's at stake, the companies have decided to leave nothing to chance. Since Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in January 1995, weapons industry PACs have given twice as much to Republican Congressional candidates as they have to Democrats, a far higher margin than prevailed when the Democrats ruled Capitol Hill, when they received about 55 percent of defense industry PAC funds, compared with 45 percent for Republicans. Hard-line Star Warriors have gotten the bulk of this industry largesse. A World Policy Institute analysis of two recent pro-Star Wars letters to President Clinton--one from twenty-five senators organized by Jesse Helms stating that they would kill any arms-control deal with the Russians that attempted to put any limits on the scope of future NMD deployments, the other from thirty-one Republican senators pushing the Center for Security Policy's pet project, a sea-based missile defense system--reveals that the signatories of these pro-Star Wars missives have received a total of nearly $2 million in PAC contributions from missile defense contractors in this election cycle.

Lockheed Martin has not neglected the presidential candidates. On the Republican side, Lockheed Martin vice president Bruce Jackson, who served as chairman of the US Committee to Expand NATO, was overheard by one of the authors at an industry gathering last year bragging about how the industry's troubles will be over if George W. Bush is elected, since Jackson would be personally writing the defense plank of the Republican platform. And Loral CEO Bernard Schwartz, who has longstanding ties to Lockheed Martin dating from when Lockheed absorbed Loral's defense unit in 1996, was the top individual donor of soft money to the Democratic Party in the 1996 presidential cycle; Loral employees gave $601,000 to Democratic Party committees. Schwartz has nearly doubled that amount in the run-up to the November 2000 elections, with $1.1 million in soft-money contributions to Democratic committees to date. He was briefly in the spotlight last year when he was accused of lobbying the Clinton Administration to ease the standards for the export of satellite technology to China.

NMD and Beyond

The continued pursuit of NMD will have far-reaching consequences for the future of arms control and the goal of nuclear abolition. It will mean a false sense of security for Americans and an increased threat of nuclear war for the world.

Instead of going down that road, the US government should focus its energy and resources on preventive measures. When Clinton meets with Putin on June 4, he could pledge to get US/Russian nuclear reductions back on track through steps that include seeking increased funding for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program--which has helped finance the destruction of thousands of Russian nuclear warheads and weapons facilities--and working toward continued reductions in US and Russian nuclear forces under START agreements. Clinton could also pledge to work for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was defeated last fall by the Senate despite overwhelming public support. Above all, Clinton could assure Russia that the United States has no intention of withdrawing from the ABM treaty. That would put Al Gore in a much stronger position to criticize George W. Bush's misleading proposal to pursue unilateral cuts in US nuclear forces in combination with an ambitious NMD plan that would usher in an era of instability by demolishing what's left of the global nuclear arms-control regime.

The newly resurgent peace and arms-control movement, led by organizations like Peace Action, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons and Power in Space, and the Fourth Freedom Forum, is trying to generate a large-enough outcry for "arms reductions, not missile defense" over this summer to beat back missile defense hysteria. But stopping NMD is just one step toward a sane nuclear policy; ultimately only the abolition of all nuclear weapons can provide the safety and security that Reagan and his latter-day disciples have pledged to provide through the false promise of missile defense.

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