I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Strategic Missile Defense

BMDO Awards Boeing NMD Contract

On December 22, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which oversees U.S. missile defense programs, awarded Boeing a contract to continue development of the Clinton administration's proposed limited national missile defense (NMD) through 2007.

Valued at $6 billion, with the potential to grow to $13 billion if all options are exercised, the contract does not change the NMD architecture or any of the system's elements, though it provides a "framework" for an "expanded" test program as well as a "more extensive countermeasures mitigation program." In 2000, outside critics, an independent panel commissioned by the Pentagon, and the director of the Defense Department's office of operational test and evaluation all judged the NMD testing program, in varying degrees, as not being realistic enough.

While the contract period runs from January 1, 2001, to September 30, 2007, the BMDO announcement noted that actual future funding, aside from what has already been obligated for fiscal year 2001, will be "subject to review and approval by the Department of Defense and the next administration."

Though President Bill Clinton decided in September not to deploy the limited NMD system, thereby leaving the deployment decision to his successor, Clinton asked the Pentagon to "continue a robust program of development and testing." (See ACT, September 2000.) During his campaign, President-elect George W. Bush criticized the current NMD system as being insufficient, but a BMDO spokesman noted on January 5 that no one from the incoming Bush administration had yet spoken with Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, the BMDO director.

The spokesman said the next attempted intercept flight test by the NMD system may occur between March and June of this year, while the first solo flight test of the booster to be used in the system could take place in March or April. In the three intercept attempts to date, the last two of which missed, the system has employed a surrogate booster to carry the NMD's hit-to-kill vehicle into space because the booster that will ultimately be used if the system is deployed is still under development.

BMDO Awards Boeing NMD Contract

Clinton NMD Decision Welcomed Abroad, Reactions at Home Are Mixed

Wade Boese

World leaders from Europe to Asia welcomed President Bill Clinton's September 1 announcement that he would not deploy a limited national missile defense (NMD) system, but the response from U.S. politicians was mixed. While congressional Democrats, many of whom had called on the president to defer a decision, strongly supported the announcement, some long-time Republican advocates of missile defense criticized the action. Presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush quickly issued statements on the announcement but revealed little of their own plans.

Russia and China, the two leading opponents of U.S. missile defense plans, reacted positively but with relative reserve to the announcement, presumably reflecting an understanding that U.S. plans have been put on hold rather than shelved permanently. Russian and Chinese official press services reported, respectively, that Russian President Vladimir Putin said Clinton's announcement will help "strategic stability," while a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman described the decision as "rational." Both statements made it clear that the U.S. action did not remove the NMD issue as a point of contention.

China fears the U.S. system's real aim is to counter Beijing's small force of some 20 ICBMs, while Russia worries the proposed system could prove to be a "slippery slope," leading to much more capable and robust defenses that could eventually threaten its nuclear deterrent. Pentagon plans call for the U.S. defense to be comprised of 20 missile interceptors initially, but to expand to 100 interceptors within two years of deployment and then perhaps to as many as 250 total, split equally between two sites in Alaska and North Dakota. The system would violate the 1972 ABM Treaty and a subsequent 1974 protocol, which together prohibit national defenses against strategic ballistic missiles and limit the United States to a single regional defense located in North Dakota.

Meeting earlier this summer in Beijing, Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin had issued a joint statement July 18 criticizing U.S. NMD plans as "seeking unilateral military and security superiority." The two leaders warned that the program "will give rise to most serious negative consequences" and that any move to undermine the ABM Treaty would "trigger off another round of arms race."

A U.K. House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report dated July 25 made a similar point, warning that a U.S. missile defense would undermine strategic stability if Russia and China opted to respond by "enhancing their offensive nuclear capabilities." A classified U.S. national intelligence estimate, delivered to the White House the second week of August, also reportedly cautioned that Beijing could accelerate its strategic modernization plans and Russia could halt cooperation on non-proliferation efforts in response to a U.S. missile defense deployment. Concerns like these, shared across Europe, have cultivated wide-spread skepticism of and opposition to the proposed U.S. shield.

Not surprisingly, Clinton's announcement was received well throughout Europe. The French and German governments characterized the decision as "wise," while Italy's prime minister said it was "positive." British foreign minister Robin Cook termed Clinton's action a "measured approach," and NATO Secretary-General George Robertson described the decision as a "prudent course of action."

In his speech September 1, Clinton said that the United States "must" have allied support for its missile defense plans, and he acknowledged that the NATO allies "have all made clear" their preference that the United States pursue its missile defense plans without abrogating the ABM Treaty. By deciding against deployment for now, Washington will get "time to answer our allies' questions and consult further on the path ahead," Clinton said.

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 25, Secretary of Defense William Cohen repeatedly emphasized the necessity of allied backing for the U.S. defense to be effective. Without forward-deployed radar systems, which are planned for Britain and Greenland, Cohen said the United States would not be able to "see the missiles coming." Cohen testified that he believed U.S. allies would support Washington's plan if Russia could be won over. At the same time, he deemed it more likely that Russia would agree to modify the ABM Treaty if all U.S. allies supported the system. The defense secretary concluded that he believed Moscow's goal so far has been to "divide" the United States and its allies on the issue.


Domestic Response

Democrats in both houses of Congress hailed the president's decision, emphasizing that they did not oppose missile defenses but agreeing that deploying an unproven defense at the expense of relations with key U.S. allies and Russia could undermine U.S. national security. Congressman Tom Allen (D-ME), who organized a July 25 letter with 60 other representatives calling on the president to defer his decision, stated September 1 that Clinton had made a "wise, thoughtful decision."

Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Carl Levin (D-MI) both welcomed the additional time created by Clinton's decision to engage in further talks with Russia to win its agreement to modify the ABM Treaty. Biden, who joined with 30 Democratic senators on July 26 to demand that Clinton not take "any steps toward deployment at this time," said Clinton's action will permit time to "perfect our political approach to the ballistic missile threat, as well as our technology." Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) crossed party lines by also endorsing the president's decision, stating that a missile defense "cannot develop in a vacuum" and "must move forward on four parallel tracks—technology, Congress, our allies, and the Russians." There will be "dangerous consequences," Hagel stated, if one of the "tracks" is left "incomplete."

Not all Republicans shared Hagel's opinion. His Senate colleague, Jon Kyl (R-AZ), described the decision as a "capstone to a string of poor decisions that have left us defenseless." A spokesman for Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) charged the administration had already deferred the decision for "the last eight years."

Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA), a fervent supporter of missile defenses, attacked Clinton as putting off "the day that our families will be protected from the threat of missile attack." After accusing Clinton and Gore of dragging their feet, Weldon called for a leader who "will stand up" and tell the world that the United States will deploy a missile defense.

Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush declared within hours of Clinton's speech that he, if chosen president, would develop and deploy an "effective" missile defense at the "earliest possible date." The Texas governor said he welcomed the "opportunity to act where [Clinton and Gore] have failed to lead" and pledged that he would seek a defense to protect not only all 50 states but also "our friends and allies." Bush, who has claimed he would withdraw from the ABM Treaty if Russia would not modify the accord, provided no details as to what type of system he would pursue, though he has indicated he would explore all options, including laser-based systems.

Gore, in a statement released the same day, said that he agreed with Clinton's decision and that he would use the additional time to persuade Moscow to amend the ABM Treaty. Yet the vice president also stated he would not allow Russian opposition to block deployment if the defense was "affordable and needed." Gore also said he would work to ease Chinese concerns and would oppose defenses that "threaten to open the gates for a renewed arms race with Russia and a new arms race with China."

The vice president also welcomed the time made available for additional testing of the system before a deployment decision, which he said could be made at any time during the testing process. The extra time, according to Gore's statement, would provide the "opportunity to be more certain" that the NMD technologies would "work together properly."

NMD Bill Clears Congress as Senate Re-Examines ABM Treaty

Craig Cerniello

IN LATE MAY, the House approved legislation stating that it is U.S. policy to both deploy an "effective" national missile defense (NMD) system "as soon as is technologically possible" and to "seek continued negotiated reductions in Russian nuclear forces." The bill, which is identical to a measure adopted by the Senate in mid-March, will now be sent to President Clinton, who is expected to sign it. The legislation will not alter the administration's plans to make a decision in June 2000 on whether to deploy a limited NMD system. Clinton has already stated that the decision will be based on four key criteria: technological readiness, the maturity of the so-called "rogue state" missile threat, cost factors and arms control considerations.

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee conducted a series of seven hearings throughout April and May on ballistic missile defenses and the ABM Treaty, in anticipation of a vote this year on several amendments to the treaty that were signed in 1997 but have not yet been submitted to the Senate. Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC) had given the White House a June 1 deadline for submitting the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on ABM Treaty succession as well as two agreed statements establishing a "demarcation line" between strategic and theater missile defenses. The Clinton administration will not meet Helms' deadline, however, because it has refused to submit the ABM amendments for Senate advice and consent until Russia has ratified START II. Failure to transmit these agreements has already prompted Helms to freeze all committee action on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and to question the validity of the so-called "flank agreement" to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. (See story.)

After the adoption of two amendments, dealing with reductions in Russian nuclear forces and appropriations of funding, the Senate on March 17 passed legislation, sponsored by Thad Cochran (R-MS), calling upon the United States to deploy an effective NMD system against limited ballistic missile attack "as soon as is technologically possible." (See ACT, March 1999.) That same day, Clinton endorsed the Cochran bill as amended because it made clear that no final decision had yet been made on NMD deployment and recognized the importance of cost and arms control factors in such a decision.

On March 18, the House approved a one-sentence bill, sponsored by Curt Weldon (R-PA), stating "That it is the policy of the United States to deploy a national missile defense." This version, however, did not have White House support because it made no mention of the basic criteria for deployment. In a compromise designed to ensure passage of NMD legislation this year, the House accepted the Cochran language on May 20 by a vote of 345-71.

In voting for the Senate language, Weldon argued that the two amendments were meaningless and accused the administration of deferring an NMD deployment decision until 2000 so that Vice President Al Gore could announce U.S. intentions to field such a system in the midst of a presidential campaign.

Not surprisingly, Russia continued to denounce U.S. interest in NMD. "By pursuing a policy of creating and deploying a [NMD] system, which is banned by the ABM Treaty, the U.S. ignores the opinion of an absolute majority of the states of the world, which justifiably regard such a policy as directly undermining global security and stability," a Russian Foreign Ministry official stated May 27.

ABM Treaty Under Siege

In a series of hearings heavily stacked against supporters of the ABM Treaty, several prominent former government officials argued that the strategic rationale for the 1972 accord no longer exists and that the United States must either negotiate substantial modifications allowing for NMD deployment or exercise its right to withdraw.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the principal architect of the ABM Treaty, argued on May 26 that the United States must deploy missile defenses for both strategic and moral reasons. "Strategically, because of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the missile technology to deliver them. Morally, because the doctrine of mutual assured destruction…is bankrupt," he said. Former Director of Central Intelligence James Woolsey also argued on May 5 that the logic behind the ABM Treaty "seems dated now," in light of the end of the Cold War, the increasing possibility of an accidental or unauthorized Russian nuclear launch and the emerging rogue-state ICBM threat.

Nevertheless, Kissinger and Woolsey concluded that it would be better for the United States to negotiate amendments to the ABM Treaty than to simply withdraw—a point also made by former Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Strategic Command General Eugene Habiger on May 5 and former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger on April 20. Earlier, on April 15, former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger called for U.S. abrogation, claiming that an effective defense could not be deployed under the treaty.

Some witnesses—most notably Stephen Hadley, former assistant secretary of defense during the Bush administration, and Keith Payne, president of the National Institute for Public Policy—also advocated a return to the 1992 U.S.-Russian dialogue on global missile defense cooperation. President Boris Yeltsin surprisingly endorsed such a concept in January of that year, when he said Russia was prepared to "develop, then create and jointly operate a global defense system, instead of the Strategic Defense Initiative system." (See ACT, January/February 1992). There does not appear to be any official U.S. or Russian interest in such a proposal at present.

Witnesses were divided on the issue of whether the technology exists to deploy an effective NMD system. While Bill Graham, former director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Reagan administration, and General John Piotrowski, former commander-in-chief of U.S. Space Command, argued that it was technologically feasible to deploy an effective NMD, Richard Garwin, a well-known expert on nuclear weapons who served on the Rumsfeld Commission, and David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed to the system's limitations and inherent vulnerability to countermeasures.

The panelists were also split on the legal status of the ABM Treaty. Attorneys Douglas Feith and David Rivkin asserted on May 25 that the treaty had lapsed with the demise of the Soviet Union and that it could only be revived by the Senate. UC-Davis law professor Michael Glennon, however, testified that the ABM Treaty remains in force today and will continue to be in force even if the Senate rejects the MOU on succession—a view shared by the Clinton administration.

CD Remains in Stalemate; U.S. Criticized for NMD Plans

Wade Boese

HALFWAY THROUGH its 1999 negotiating session, the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) is no closer to beginning negotiations than when the session started in January. Differences on nuclear disarmament and preventing an arms race in outer space are holding up agreement on an initial work program—thereby blocking all negotiations, including talks on banning the production of fissile material for weapons purposes, which no delegation opposes. A May 27 Chinese statement describing those three issues, as well as negative security assurances, as "inter-related" points to a continued impasse as the United States opposes negotiations on nuclear disarmament and outer space. The U.S. negotiating priority at the CD remains the fissile material cutoff talks.

In August 1998, the CD started negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, but the talks ended in September with the close of the 1998 negotiating session. Frustrated by the failure to renew negotiations this year, the United States, Britain and France proposed on May 20 a new work program that includes an unprecedented move to exempt the cutoff talks from the conference's rules of operation. The three nuclear-weapon states proposed establishing an ad hoc committee on a fissile cutoff treaty that would run for successive CD sessions until negotiations are completed. Currently, annual authorization is required for any conference subsidiary body, which, in the past, expired with the end of each year's negotiating session.

U.S. Ambassador to the CD Robert Grey said on May 20 that the three sponsors could not believe that the international community wanted fissile cutoff talks to "proceed in fits and starts." He further charged that it would be "irresponsible for the conference to make limited progress this year" and then delay renewing negotiations next year.

However, without an annual means to withhold consent on conducting cutoff talks, other delegations would lose leverage to push Washington on issues that it refuses to negotiate on, such as nuclear disarmament. Because the conference operates by consensus, the May 20 proposal is unlikely to win approval.

U.S. national missile defense (NMD) plans and the new NATO "strategic concept" (see story) drew heavy fire within the conference beginning on May 11, the first plenary of the second of three working parts of the 1999 negotiating session. Moscow warned Washington that deployment of an NMD system could trigger a new strategic arms race, including in outer space, and undermine the existing non-proliferation regime. China echoed Moscow's fears about a new arms race, while Pakistan charged that deployment of an NMD, as well as theater missile defenses, could have "grave consequences in South Asia and elsewhere." Pakistan further claimed that NATO's new strategic concept would "set back" disarmament and non-proliferation.

China, alluding to U.S. NMD plans, charged on May 27 that one country has "ambitious programs" to extend weapons systems into outer space. Perhaps as much a by-product of souring Sino-U.S. relations—particularly after the May 7 NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade—as of anxiety with U.S. NMD plans, Beijing has stiffened its position for an outer space ad hoc committee, which China noted is only opposed by one country. China's ambassador to the CD, Li Changhe, warned that the conference's work program needed to be treated as a whole and that "singling out any one of the items while excluding the others is unjustified and unhelpful." Washington contends that there is no arms race in outer space.

The current working period of the 1999 negotiating session ends June 25, and the final part is scheduled from July 26 to September 8. A member of one CD delegation noted that most members are simply "watching and waiting."

Senate, House Approve Bills Calling for NMD Deployment

Craig Cerniello

ON MARCH 17, following the addition of two amendments—one calling for continued nuclear force reductions with Russia—the Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation sponsored by Thad Cochran (R-MS) stating that it is U.S. policy to deploy an "effective" national missile defense (NMD) system "as soon as is technologically possible." The next day, the House approved an unamended bill backed by Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA), which states simply "That it is the policy of the United States to deploy a national missile defense."

A House-Senate conference committee will meet after the Spring recess (March 27 to April 11) to reconcile differences between the two bills. The Clinton administration has endorsed the Senate language because it recognizes the importance of U.S. arms control objectives.

Congressional approval of the bills, both of which were first introduced last year, came less than two months after Secretary of Defense William Cohen announced a major restructuring of the administration's NMD program. (See ACT, January/February 1999.) Although the administration has added $6.6 billion to its fiscal years 2000–2005 defense budget to support an NMD deployment option, no decision on deployment is scheduled until June 2000 at the earliest.

Amending the Cochran Bill

The White House had threatened to veto the original version of the Cochran bill because it based an NMD deployment decision on just one factor: technological readiness. In a February 3 letter to Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), National Security Adviser Samuel Berger stated that the administration's deployment decision would reflect four criteria: the proposed system's effectiveness based on the state of NMD technology; whether the long-range ballistic missile threat to the United States from so-called "rogue states" had materialized as quickly as anticipated; the cost of NMD deployment and the effect of deployment on arms control.

The White House withdrew its veto threat—and most Senate Democrats withdrew their objections to the bill—after the Senate adopted two amendments on March 16 by identical 99–0 votes. The first amendment, sponsored by Cochran, revises the original bill to state that "It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate) with funding subject to the annual authorization of appropriations and the annual appropriation of funds for National Missile Defense" (amendment in italics).

The second amendment, introduced by Mary Landrieu (D-LA), declares that "It is the policy of the United States to seek continued negotiated reductions in Russian nuclear forces."

President Clinton praised the amended bill, which passed 97-3, in a March 17 statement. "By specifying that any NMD deployment must be subject to the authorization and appropriations process, the legislation now makes clear that no decision on deployment has been made," he said. Clinton added that "By putting the Senate on record as continuing to support negotiated reductions in strategic nuclear arms, the bill reaffirms that our missile defense policy must take into account our arms control objectives." The amended bill does not, however, make an NMD deployment decision contingent on progress in arms reduction.

Furthermore, some observers have argued that the administration softened its position on NMD by supporting legislation that does not explicitly address all four of its deployment criteria. Yet Clinton reiterated in his statement that the administration's deployment decision will be based on the same four factors outlined in Berger's February 3 letter. In a March 18 briefing, Defense Department spokesman Ken Bacon also said that the amended Cochran bill will not alter the administration's schedule for making an NMD deployment decision next year.

On the morning of March 18, hours before a scheduled vote on the Weldon bill, approximately 250 House members received a rare, 90-minute classified briefing on the missile threat to the United States. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the Rumsfeld Commission described the results of their July 1998 report to Congress, in which they concluded that the United States may have "little or no warning" before facing a long-range ballistic missile threat from rogue states, such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran. (See ACT, June/July 1998.)

In the House floor debate (as well as that of the Senate), the question of whether the United States would soon face a rogue-state ICBM threat was not as heavily contested as in the past, probably due to the cumulative effect of the Rumsfeld report, the August 1998 North Korean test of the Taepo Dong-1 missile, and Cohen's January 20 NMD announcements. Recent allegations of Chinese espionage at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1980s also heightened perceptions of U.S. vulnerability to missile attack. Instead, the congressional debates covered such issues as the effectiveness of "hit-to-kill" technology, the cost of deployment, the future of the ABM Treaty and the impact of NMD deployment on the START process.

The vote in the House (317-105) was much closer than in the Senate because the Republican leadership refused to allow the introduction of amendments. A senior administration official said on March 26 that the White House had not changed its position on the unacceptability of the Weldon language should it survive the conference committee.

Consistent with their reaction to Cohen's January 20 NMD announcements, Russia and China were critical of the developments on Capitol Hill. In a March 18 statement, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "We are talking here of a serious threat to the whole process of limiting nuclear weapons and to the stability of a strategic situation which has taken decades of international agreements to build up," a point reinforced two days later by Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi also warned on March 18 that NMD development "will have a negative impact on the global strategic balance."

Seventeen-Year Locusts

 Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

The congressional clamor for a national missile defense (NMD) is painfully reminiscent of similar past campaigns that, like locusts, have emerged every 17 years to drown out reasoned discourse on U.S. security. Unless President Clinton stands by his threat to veto legislation designed to force a deployment decision, the United States will deliver another blow to prospects for reduction in strategic nuclear forces.

The Senate's 97-3 passage of legislation calling for the deployment of an "effective" NMD "as soon as is technologically possible" has been widely reported as heralding a new consensus for NMD deployment. Actually, the legislation incorporates a conflicting commitment "to seek continued negotiated reductions in Russian nuclear forces." In welcoming the legislation, Clinton made clear that a deployment decision would only be considered next year after a review of technical developments, costs, the threat and "progress in achieving our arms control objectives, including any amendments to the ABM Treaty that may be required to accommodate possible NMD deployment."

The Senate bill itself appears to kick the deployment decision well down the road since Clinton's criteria cannot be met any time soon. However, should an unamended version of the bill, which passed the House, emerge from a Senate-House conference and not be vetoed, it would indeed be seen as a shift in policy and bode ill for presidential resolve on the eve of the 2000 election.

There is little chance that the technology will have been demonstrated by mid-2000. The architecture for the proposed system has not yet even been defined, and the bill's requirement that "effective" defense be provided for all 50 states sets an almost impossible standard for a system consistent with the ABM Treaty. Moreover, the four proposed tests scheduled before the decision will be forced to use surrogate components since prototypes of actual components will not even exist. Based on past experience with unproven systems, costs now estimated at $10 billion–$13 billion could easily double or triple before deployment.

The threat against which the system is designed is unlikely to emerge for many years if ever. Poverty-stricken rogue states, with far more pressing military requirements, will not spend their limited resources on ICBMs. And, if they should do so to demonstrate national prowess, the prospect of devastating retaliation or pre-emption would certainly deter them from using, or even threatening to use, the missiles against the United States.

The United States has understood for more than 30 years the need to limit NMD in order to reduce strategic offensive arms. Senior Russian political and military officials have repeatedly underscored the linkage, and the Duma's draft START II ratification legislation makes clear that U.S. abrogation or violation of the ABM Treaty would be grounds for Russian withdrawal from START II. Any system that could be considered "effective" would involve amending almost every substantive article of the ABM Treaty.

The emergence of NMD enthusiasts, like noisy locusts, has come in roughly 17-year cycles. In 1967, under strong congressional pressure for an NMD, stimulated by the Soviet strategic buildup, deployment of the Moscow ABM system and the 1964 Chinese nuclear tests, President Johnson reluctantly decided to deploy the Sentinel NMD system. In an effort to delink the decision from the Soviet Union, with which efforts were going forward to begin the SALT I negotiations, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announced Sentinel as protection against a future rogue Chinese threat. The Chinese threat did not emerge for the next 15 years, and we have lived with it for the last 15 years.

In 1983, President Reagan unveiled "Star Wars" to provide an "impenetrable shield" against even a massive Soviet ballistic missile attack. The concept, which was recognized from the outset as technically unattainable, succumbed despite the infusion of tens of billions of dollars. To establish the legality of Star Wars, the Reagan administration advanced the so-called "broad" interpretation of the ABM Treaty, a concept without legal merit, which sought to permit precisely what the ABM Treaty was designed to prevent. In the end, both the technological fantasy and the legal chicanery came to naught.

Today, we have a new NMD whose purpose is chillingly reminiscent of McNamara's Sentinel system and whose technology is the detritus of Star Wars. President Clinton should stand firm on his position that any decision to deploy an NMD must seriously consider all relevant factors and not be a knee-jerk reaction to a most unlikely threat. If necessary, he should veto legislation that would be perceived as mandating the deployment of an NMD in violation of the ABM Treaty. This decision is too important to be left to the noisy demands of the latest hatch of NMD locusts.

Cohen Announces NMD Restructuring, Funding Boost

Craig Cerniello

ON JANUARY 20, Secretary of Defense William Cohen announced a major restructuring of the U.S. national missile defense (NMD) and "upper-tier" theater missile defense (TMD) programs, as well as the commitment for the first time of funds for actual NMD deployment. Cohen's announcement drew a barrage of criticism from Russia and China and skeptical reactions from some in Congress, where Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) reintroduced bills calling for NMD deployment (see story).

Cohen's NMD announcement consisted of what he termed "four critical decisions." First, the fiscal years (FY) 2000–2005 Defense Department budget, submitted to Congress on February 1, includes $6.6 billion to support NMD deployment. (The addition of these deployment funds, coupled with funds added in the FY 1999 omnibus appropriations bill, brings NMD spending to $10.5 billion through FY 2005.) This announcement appears designed to counter congressional attacks on the credibility of the administration's NMD program, which to date has allocated funds only for research and development.

Second, citing the Rumsfeld Commission, which concluded in July 1998 that the United States may have "little or no warning" before facing a long-range missile threat from "rogue nations," and the August 1998 test of the North Korean Taepo Dong-1 ballistic missile, Cohen stated that the long-range ballistic missile threat to the United States is real and growing.

As recently as last September, the CIA had challenged some of the claims in the Rumsfeld report and concluded that a rogue nation ICBM threat to the United States was unlikely before 2010, with the possible exception of North Korea. (See ACT, October 1998.) The agency, however, later hardened its view of the North Korean threat. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 2, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet testified that the Taepo Dong-1 launch "demonstrated technology that, with the resolution of some important technical issues, would give North Korea the ability to deliver a very small payload to intercontinental ranges—including parts of the United States—although not very accurately."

More alarmingly, Tenet said the Taepo Dong-2, which has not yet been flight-tested, could deliver large payloads to the continental United States if it utilized a third stage similar to the one in the August 1998 test.

Third, Cohen announced that the Clinton administration is exploring the "nature and scope" of modifications to the ABM Treaty that may be necessary to support the deployment of a limited NMD system. For example, if all 50 states cannot be defended from a single ABM site, an amendment allowing for multiple sites would be necessary. Even if a single site were sufficient, he noted, an amendment may still be necessary if the United States chooses to shift that site from Grand Forks, North Dakota to Alaska. Should the United States and Russia fail to agree on treaty amendments, Cohen stated that "we have the option of our national interest indicating we would simply pull out of the treaty."

Finally, Cohen announced a two-year delay in the NMD program's "3+3" schedule. Although the United States will make its deployment decision in 2000, as originally planned, Cohen projected that the system would not realistically be deployable until 2005 should the decision be made to proceed. The delay is intended to avoid the "rush to failure" mentality described in the 1998 Welch panel report, whereby pressures to accelerate the deployment of missile defense systems interfere with adequate flight-testing. (See ACT, March 1998.)

According to Cohen, the deployment decision, scheduled for June 2000, will be based on two key criteria: "There must be a threat to warrant the deployment; and our NMD development must have proceeded sufficiently so that we are technologically able to proceed. What we are saying today is that we now expect the first criterion will soon be met, and technological readiness will be the primary remaining criterion."

Yet Robert Bell, special assistant to the president for national defense and arms control, backtracked somewhat from Cohen's statement in a January 21 White House briefing. Bell said a deployment decision would not be based solely on the maturity of NMD technology but would also take into account the nature of the missile threat, cost estimates and arms control considerations. National Security Adviser Samuel Berger reiterated this point in a February 3 letter to Senator Carl Levin (D-MI).

Restructured TMD Effort

On TMD, Cohen announced that the United States will continue to flight-test the Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which has failed in all five of its intercept attempts, and accelerate the Navy's Theater Wide system from the development to the acquisition phase to place both systems on roughly the same deployment schedule. In this way, the Pentagon hopes to inject competition into its upper-tier TMD effort. In a separate briefing on January 20, Lester Lyles, director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, explained that beginning in 2002, the bulk of upper-tier TMD funding will go to the more successful program so that the United States will be able to deploy THAAD or Navy Theater Wide by 2007. Previously, these systems were not scheduled to be deployed until 2008 and 2010, respectively.

As for "lower-tier" TMD programs, Cohen said the Pentagon will continue to fund the Army's Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system and the Navy's Area Defense system to permit deployment as planned in 2001 and 2003. However, he noted that the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program, which is being developed with Germany and Italy for NATO deployment, will not be completely funded. Instead, the United States will provide $150 million over the next three years to facilitate the development of technologies designed to carry out the mission originally intended for MEADS: the protection of maneuvering ground forces.

Russian and Chinese Reactions

Cohen's NMD announcement drew an overwhelmingly negative response from Russian officials. While Cohen (and Bell) argued that the administration's NMD program is not designed to threaten Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent forces, Moscow is concerned that even a limited U.S. NMD system could jeopardize the viability of those forces, especially as they shrink due to arms control agreements and growing financial difficulties.

Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Russian Defense Ministry's department for international military cooperation, told Interfax on January 21 that "Attempts to bypass the ABM Treaty will upset strategic stability" and threaten Russian ratification of START II, which may come up for Duma consideration in March. Dismissing U.S. fears of a rogue nation threat, Ivashov stated, "Any military expert understands that these states have not and, in the near future, will not have guaranteed means of delivering weapons on U.S. territory."

On January 22, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov bluntly said that Russia would not agree to ABM Treaty amendments allowing for limited NMD deployment—a position endorsed the following day by First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov. Some members of the Russian Duma share this sentiment. General Nikolay Bezborodov, deputy chairman of the Duma's defense committee, said on February 17 that the committee unanimously believes "there is no reason whatsoever to re-examine" the treaty.

Following meetings with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Moscow, Ivanov stated on January 26 that Russia believes "further cuts in strategic offensive weapons can be done only if there is a clear vision for preserving and observing [the ABM Treaty] as the cornerstone of strategic stability." Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will meet with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgi Mamedov in Moscow on February 22–24 for further discussions on "strategic stability" issues.

Chinese officials were equally negative. Like Moscow, Beijing fears that a U.S. NMD system could undermine the deterrent value of its strategic nuclear forces, which include only approximately 20 CSS-4 ICBMs capable of reaching U.S. territory. Ambassador Sha Zukang, director-general of the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament in China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, argued in a January 12 speech that NMD development would compel other states to build up their offensive missile forces. To avoid such an outcome, Sha reaffirmed China's strong support for the ABM Treaty and even called for its multilateralization (presumably beyond the former Soviet Union).

On January 24, China's official Liberation Army Daily claimed that the Clinton administration's missile defense plan "will have a far-reaching negative influence" on global and regional stability in the 21st century. China also intensified its criticism of the administration's related efforts to cooperate with East Asian allies on theater missile defenses. (See story.)

Cochran, Weldon Reintroduce Missile Defense Legislation

 Craig Cerniello

SKEPTICAL OF the Clinton administration's commitment to national missile defense (NMD), Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) reintroduced separate legislation on January 20 and February 4, respectively, calling for the deployment of an NMD system. Both Cochran's measure, which the White House has threatened to veto, and Weldon's bill have been approved by committee and could come up for a floor vote in March.

The Senate failed by just one vote in both May and September 1998 to bring Cochran's NMD legislation to a floor vote. (See ACT, May 1998 and August/September 1998.) On January 20, Cochran reintroduced the bill, which states that "It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate)."

On February 9, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the "National Missile Defense Act of 1999" by a vote of 12-7, largely along party lines. The bill (S. 257) has 52 co-sponsors, including four Democrats: Daniel Akaka (HI), Ernest Hollings (SC), Daniel Inouye (HI) and Joseph Lieberman (CT).

During his January 20 press conference, Secretary of Defense William Cohen stated that the main factor dictating an NMD deployment decision will be the maturity of the technology—the same benchmark established in the Cochran bill.

The administration, however, later clarified its position. In a February 3 letter to Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said he would recommend to President Clinton that S. 257 be vetoed because of the "unacceptably narrow definition" upon which an NMD deployment decision would be made. According to Berger, the administration's deployment decision will be based on technological readiness, the nature of the missile threat, cost factors and arms control considerations. "S. 257 suggests that neither the ABM Treaty nor our objectives for START II and START III are factors in an NMD deployment decision," Berger wrote.

The Weldon bill

On February 4, Weldon introduced H.R. 4, a one-sentence bill stating "That it is the policy of the United States to deploy a national missile defense." The House Armed Services Committee approved the legislation on February 25 by a vote of 50-3.

Weldon originally introduced the bill in August 1998, but it never came up for a floor vote. The administration, which is not expected to make an NMD deployment decision until June 2000, has not yet formally commented on H.R. 4. The legislation already has 30 Democrats among its 97 co-sponsors.

Weldon stated that a commitment to NMD deployment would "give meaning to the money that the Clinton administration has announced it will spend on [NMD]. Without a commitment to deploy, that money is just a placeholder, liable to be used for something else in the defense budget." Furthermore, he argued, such a commitment would "move the United States beyond the question of 'if' we deploy to 'when' we deploy [an NMD]" and would send a message to so-called "rogue nations" that their pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles "will not go unchallenged."

NDP Report Says Wait on NMD, But Not on Nuclear Reductions

November/December 1997

By Craig Cerniello

The congressionally mandated National Defense Panel (NDP) submitted its report analyzing U.S. defense and security requirements through the year 2020 to Secretary of Defense William Cohen on December 1. As part of this comprehensive analysis, the nine-member panel, chaired by Philip Odeen, president and chief executive officer of BDM International, recommended that the United States and Russia move to a START III agreement "as rapidly as possible," reaffirmed the Clinton administration's national missile defense (NMD) policy and warned of U.S. vulnerabilities in outer space.

The NDP report, entitled Transforming Defense: National Security in the 21st Century, said, "The key task for U.S. nuclear policy in the first decades of the twenty-first century will be to deter attacks against the United States and its allies, discourage the use of, or the threat to use, nuclear weapons, and promote efforts to achieve balanced and stabilizing reductions in nuclear arsenals." The report noted that achieving deeper reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals is "currently stalled" because the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, has not yet ratified START II, which will limit each side to no more than 3,500 deployed strategic warheads.

In this connection, the NDP report stated that "retaining nuclear arms at current levels for an extended period is not in the U.S. interest." Presently, the United States is prohibited by law from reducing its nuclear arsenal below START I levels (6,000 "accountable" warheads) until Russia has ratified START II. The panel initially voiced its concern about maintaining such a costly force level during its assessment of the May 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). At that time, the NDP said the move to START II force levels "should proceed even if the Duma fails to act on START II this year." (See ACT, May 1997.)

In its discussion of further strategic force reductions, the NDP report said, "Effective deterrence of potential adversaries can be maintained at the reduced levels envisioned by START III and beyond." The United States and Russia are currently holding a series of expert-level discussions on START III, which will limit each side to no more than 2,500 deployed strategic warheads, in anticipation of the Duma's approval of START II. Following such approval, the United States and Russia will begin official negotiations on the new treaty.

As for U.S. missile defense policy, the report stated that "Given the evolving threat and continued improvement of our missile defense technology, a hedging strategy, rather than immediate deployment of a missile defense system, is a sensible approach." This recommendation is consistent with the administration's "3-plus-3" program, which calls for the development of the initial elements of an NMD system by 2000, at which point the United States will assess the ballistic missile threat to its territory and be in a position to deploy such a system by 2003 if necessary. If a long-range missile threat has not been identified by 2000, the United States will continue to develop and refine its NMD system until such a threat does emerge, while maintaining a rolling three-year deployment capability. In contrast to this approach, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) introduced a bill (S.7) last January that would require the United States to deploy a NMD system by the end of 2003 regardless of the ballistic missile threat at that time, but the bill has not yet reached the Senate floor.

In its examination of space operations, the NDP report emphasized that "Unrestricted use of space has become a major strategic interest of the United States." However, the panel cautioned that several vulnerabilities exist in the U.S. space program, such as the small number of U.S. launch installations, and that potential adversaries will have greater access to space in the future. "Therefore, we must take steps now to ensure we have the capability to deny our enemies the use of space," the report said. This recommendation has been interpreted by some observers as an endorsement of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, the development of which has been opposed by the Clinton administration on the grounds that there is no threat justifying their deployment and that such programs would encourage other states to pursue similar activities contrary to U.S. security interests.

On December 15, Secretary Cohen submitted his comments on the NDP report to Congress. In his letter to Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC), Cohen said "I believe the Panel recommends the correct path for pursuing a national missile defense system. I also agree that we should seek further reductions in nuclear forces, and we intend to do so upon ratification of the START II treaty." Addressing space policy, Cohen stated that "I share the Panel's concern about the vulnerabilities of our space systems.... Military competitors, enabled by commercially available space systems, will obviously seek to reduce our current advantages in space. This challenge requires that we have adequate space control capabilities and better integration of our defense and intelligence community operations."

NDP Report Says Wait on NMD, But Not on Nuclear Reductions

NMD Sensor Test Successful

After two aborted test attempts in midJanuary and subsequent delays, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) on June 24 conducted the first flight test of an exo-atmospheric kill vehicle sensor for the Clinton administration's national missile defense (NMD) program. BMDO has characterized the test as successful based on the available data thus far.

According to BMDO, the test sought to assess the ability of the sensor, which was developed by Boeing North American, to track and identify objects in outer space—not to intercept a ballistic missile target. The test involved a modified Minuteman II ICBM carrying simulated targets and launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and a payload launch vehicle (which contained the sensor) launched from Kwajalein Missile Range in the central Pacific Ocean.

Under its so-called "3-plus-3" program, the Clinton administration is developing the initial elements of an NMD system by 2000, at which time it will evaluate the long-range ballistic missile threat to the United States and have the option of deploying such a system by 2003 if necessary. If the threat does not warrant NMD deployment in 2000, the administration will continue the development of its NMD system while maintaining a rolling three-year deployment capability. The next NMD flight test, scheduled for January 1998, will evaluate a competing sensor built by Hughes Aircraft. Thereafter, two NMD intercept attempts are planned for 1998 followed by an integrated system test in 1999.


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