Skip to comments.Experts debate space-based BMD assets [Coyle Takes Aim At Brilliant Pebbles]
Posted on 08/01/2006 6:17:15 AM PDT by Paul Ross
Experts debate space-based BMD assets [More Usual Suspects]
By JESSICA TAYLOR
UPI, July 25, 2006
WASHINGTON, July 21 (UPI) -- A new report claims U.S. anti-ballistic missile defenses must be deployed in space to be effective, but critics disagree.
Several analysts say the study is based on false pretenses and the deployment of defense mechanisms into space is not in national security interests.
The Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, a Washington think tank, has issued a study saying the implementation of plans for space missile defense is critical for U.S. national security and an effective system against at least some intercontinental ballistic missiles from so-called rogue states should be in place no later than 2010.
"The absence of a space strategy is a gap in national security," said Robert Pfaltzgraff, president of the IFPA, during a roundtable on the new report hosted by the American Foreign Policy Council, a small conservative Washington think tank, last Friday on Capitol Hill. "Only space can give us a global missile defense."
The threat is even more immediate, many fear, following several missile tests on July 4 by North Korea. While their long range Taepodong-2 ICBM was unsuccessful, several short range No Dong missiles appeared to work effectively in the tests. One of North Korea's main exports is weapons, and Pfaltzgraff said the United States should be increasingly concerned that these short range missiles could end up in the hands of terrorists aiming to launch them from domestic shores.
The IFPA analysts claimed that U.S. ballistic missile defense must be revaluated in light of these developments. However, other analysts said the Bush administration has failed so far in adequately developing its BMD programs.
"This won't do anything for security and will blow the defense budget," said Craig Eisendrath, board chairman for the Project of Nuclear Awareness and a former State Department analyst who dealt with space and nuclear policy.
Similar criticisms were prevalent following President Ronald Reagan's proposal of a Strategic Defense Initiative, also known as "Star Wars," that originally conceptualized deploying nuclear missile defenses in space.
The suggestion was revived again under the current Bush administration with the idea of "Brilliant Pebbles."
"The idea was that a small satellite with good brain that would see enemy missiles and dash off after it, hit it and knock it down," said Philip Coyle, senior advisor at the Center for Defense Information.
However, this concept would have required multiple satellites, perhaps as many as 1,000, in orbit to be effective.
"You can't have one interceptor parked over North Korea," said Coyle. "You need another to take its place."
Coyle also questioned the monetary feasibility of the program.
"It would be, by all measures, very expensive. And it's still problematic as to whether would work," Coyle said. "They've been projecting [costs] for at least 20 years and it doesn't seem to happen."
Pfaltzgraff said that U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 opened up additional options in the use of space-based weapons for missile defense. However, the Bush administration had not adequately explored these options and current U.S. missile defense policies remained virtually unchanged since the Clinton administration, he said.
"Bush will eventually be judged by what he does in the next two years" of his waning presidency, he said.
Eisendraft said U.S.withdrawal from the ABM treaty had been a negative move for the United States and that many of America's missile defense challenges today stemmed from that pullout.
Current ABM defense systems deployed in California and Alaska were inadequate, he said. Should a missile be launched, the 11 ground-based midcourse interceptors currently deployed would probably be unable to distinguish between an actual threat and a decoy.
The United States has also refused to join in a treaty banning the use of space for missile defense. China, Japan, and the European Union are all willing signatories, Eisendraft said, who helped draft the original treaty.
"This is crazy when the rest of the world is completely willing to sign on and kick the rest of this out," he said. "The United States is acting in a completely irresponsible manner."
But the biggest factor in the push for space weaponry is corporate interests rather than economic and security sensibility, said Eisendraft.
"We're dealing with a situation not driven by security aspects but money," said Eisendraft. "Across the board, we're not dealing with anything that's looking promising" in the use of space.
Coyle Takes Aim at Brilliant Pebbles
July 26, 2006
Philip Coyle, senior advisor at the Center for Defense Information, was recently quoted in the UPI on the issue of space-based missile defenses and in particular, the Brilliant Pebbles defense system. The idea was that a small satellite with good brain [sic] that would see enemy missiles and dash off after it, hit it and knock it down, he said, but noted that such a concept would have required numerous satellites, perhaps as many as 1,000 to be effective. You cant have one interceptor parked over North Korea, he argued. You need another to take its place. Coyle also questioned the monetary feasibility of the program. It would be, by all measures, very expensive. And its still problematic as to whether it would work. Theyve been projecting [costs] for at least 20 years and it doesnt seem to happen.
Would Brilliant Pebbles work? Coyle does not mention that Brilliant Pebbles had successfully completed its simulation stage and was ready to move to the proof-of-concept, prototype, and performance testing stages when it was effectively starved of funding as the Clinton administration came to power. Nor does he mention that in 1994 NASA launched a deep-space probe mission known as Clementine, constructed with first-generation Brilliant Pebbles hardware. The mission, which cost $80 million, effectively space-qualified Brilliant Pebbles technology, even though the missile defense program had already been eliminated.
Would Brilliant Pebbles be too expensive? The newly released report by the Independent Working Group entitled Missile Defense, the Space Relationship and the Twenty-First Centurythe report cited by the UPI pieceputs the total cost of a 1,000-satellite constellation of Brilliant Pebbles at $16 billion, based on the fully approved Defense Acquisition Board plan from 1991. The figure includes the costs of developing, testing, deploying, and operating Brilliant Pebbles over a 20-year period using a low-to-moderate risk, event-driven acquisition schedule. Many would agree that $16 billion dollars is a small price to pay for the protection of the U.S. and its allies from ballistic missile attack and nuclear devastation. (Article, Link)
» Read the 2007 report: The Independent Working Group on Missile Defense, the Space Relationship, and the Twenty-First Century (8 MB)
» More stories on: Analysis, Policy and Space-Based Systems
» Missile system details for: Brilliant Pebbles
On the Fourth of July, North Korea's Kim Jong Il tested a series of ballistic missiles. Two days later, when questioned about the test, President Bush acknowledged that America's missile defenses were "modest and new."
That they are new is understandable, since only in the last year has America begun to field missile defenses. The modest part, however, is of greater concern, since they are likely to remain modest by design throughout the administration's tenure.
With the crisis in the Middle East and the growing boldness of North Korea and China, citizens must ask why.
Most Americans would be quite surprised to learn that America does not have a national missile defense. Only the most rudimentary land-based system is being built and deployed in Alaska and California and it lacks the full complement of radars and satellites to ensure its success.
More effective sea-based defenses are woefully underfunded despite several successful tests. The most effective and necessary component of layered defense-space-based interceptors are but wishful thinking and not even scheduled to receive any serious support for the next decade.
The simple reality is missile defense was never built under Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. despite the now-acknowledged lesson that the mere proposal of building a missile defense helped precipitate the demise of the Soviet Union.
Missile defense was actively opposed by the Clinton administration, which killed or crippled any serious program. Only after intense pressure in 1998 by congressional Republicans did Clinton begin the modest land-based system designed to deal with a handful of missiles launched at the U.S. Bush is continuing the effort.
The most charitable explanation for our lack of a missile defense is the failure by Republicans and Democrats to think beyond the corrupt Cold War mentality that nuclear war is somehow inconceivable and that the threat of mutually assured destruction can by itself protect us.
Because no nation would risk a nuclear exchange and the resulting loss of life, the thinking goes, no missile defense is necessary and indeed may lead to an arms race or pre-emptive nuclear war. Just five years ago it was unthinkable that terrorists would fly airplanes into our buildings. It is important to heed the admonition of the 9-11 commission: We failed to prevent that catastrophe in part by a "failure of imagination."
Although it is still largely inconceivable to most U.S. policymakers, is there any scenario in which North Korea would launch a nuclear missile against the U.S.?
It's certainly easy to dismiss Kim Jong Il as a madman. And yet, even with his pursuit of or actual possession of nuclear weapons, this seems insufficient in encouraging a robust missile defense.
More likely, he's a cold, ruthless dictator. He has proved willing to starve his own people to obtain the fear and respect afforded a world leader in possession of intercontinental nuclear missiles.
What missiles do not afford is any special insight into preventing the sort of miscalculation that was the hallmark of 20th-century dictatorships.
Imagine Kim Jong Il calculated that he could launch a nuclear missile against Seattle well within range of his Taepodong-2 missile. He would first recall that the U.S. did not use nuclear weapons during the Korean War, Vietnam War, Iran hostage crisis, bombing of Marines in Beirut, terrorist attacks by al-Qaida throughout the 1990s or the 9-11 assault.
In each case, measured military action was taken, great effort was made not to endanger civilians and a central concern was not provoking hostilities with China or Russia. Second, Kim Jong Il might be convinced that China will defend the North Koreans as it has in the past. So what would happen?
Assume China does move to protect the North Koreans in their folly. Chinese President Hu Jintao calls President Bush and declares that the North Korean attack on Seattle was an awful crime, but that any nuclear retaliation will be seen by the Chinese as an attack on China itself. He pledges to help the U.S. rebuild Seattle and promises to deal harshly with the North Koreans.
Likewise, President Vladimir Putin calls to second his Chinese counterpart: Russia, too, will assist in rebuilding and offers to help negotiate a cease-fire claiming that the last thing the world needs is a nuclear attack by the U.S. on North Korea.
In the meantime, as Bush plans his response, civil defense procedures begin in Beijing and in Moscow. Cities are evacuated, militaries are put on high alert, offensive nuclear forces are readied. The cautions by the Chinese and the Russians are meant to be taken seriously.
There is no "trip wire" that forces a U.S. president to deploy our nuclear arsenal. A rational assessment will be made as to how best to respond.
It is possible, perhaps likely, that the U.S. would launch a counterattack using nuclear weapons. This would fulfill the premise of mutually assured destruction, and require a large-scale nuclear attack to destroy the North Korean regime and its military capabilities especially since the prospect of a North Korean invasion of the South would become a real possibility under such uncertain circumstances.
But would the U.S. attack if it meant a possible nuclear war with China and Russia? Bush is a courageous and patriotic man. But to avoid a full-scale nuclear war and the annihilation of millions of Americans, is it possible that a U.S. president might not retaliate using nuclear weapons and instead accept such an attack as an unfortunate catastrophe that might lead to the unthinkable nuclear war between the superpowers?
Of course, all this may be fanciful the stuff of movies and doomsayers. The sheer horror is perhaps why policymakers seem reluctant to concern themselves with developing these horrible nuclear weapons and a ballistic missile defense.
But because we have not eliminated human evil or human error and miscalculation, a missile defense is precisely what is needed and well within our technological capability.
We ought to be working around the clock to make such defenses a reality, but we proceed as if time is on our side. It's reasonable to ask the president and Congress to report back to the American people and let us know when our missile defenses will no longer be simply "modest." Common sense requires as much.
Kennedy is president of the Claremont Institute think tank and a member of the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense, missilethreat.com.
© Investor's Business Daily, Inc. 2000-2006. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction or redistribution is prohibited without prior authorized permission from Investor's Business Daily. For information on reprints, webprints, permissions or back issue orders, go to www.investors.com/terms/reprints.asp.
These guys are clueless. 'Brilliant Pebbles' was originally conceived during the late 1980's. Probably during last 2 years of Reagan or the first year of Senior Bush. I know because I saw printouts from a graphic video presentation that TRW was putting together. Nice graphics for the time. Granted that may have been during the initial proposals.
Yes. It was a very late Reagan-era idea, formulated by Edward Teller when it looked like Excalibur wasn't panning out as well as hoped. What is being discussed here is the revival of the idea. It had never been killed for infeasibility or cost. But killed due to a philosophical opposition to defense.
Since 1998, it is clear which philosophy is overwhelming ascendant. Defense. And Brilliant Pebbles shows distinct performance advantages and cost savings over the lame, inflexible, ground-based approach.
But of course the Usual Suspects from the Left, at the CDI, who are always keeping things from being deployed, but only studied, and then underfunded, etc., are then criticizing the Administration for merely following what they have preached it to do...study and not deploy.
Don't tell me, they are socialist communist DEMS.
Ya think?! ;-)
I'm shocked! Simply shocked!
That's why I term them the Usual Suspects...
Yes I can hear Albright say, "All you need is Bill...da..da.da.."
Tom Daschle put his tiny foot in his large mouth when he attempted to portray pro-defense folks as idiots at a televised news conference he held in 2001.
Transcript from Daschle's press conference, in 2001, on the National Missile Defense Program
"Whether or not we want to violate the ABM treaty
especially with a concept [NMD program] that we may not know
that we do know now DOES NOT WORK
is something that also mystifies me."
Every aspect of the debate and the consideration
that is given this whole program
is... is troubling to me.
I... I mean... I...there's a DISCONNECT there.
I mean...It just seems common sense....
I mean...there's NO BRAIN..
THIS ISN'T ROCKET SCIENCE here...
Yes it IS rocket science....
that's the problem..
Hadn't thought about that..
As I just think out loud ....
as I meander through here.
(laugh laugh laugh laugh laugh)
That's the problem."
Brilliant Pebbles is a brilinat idea.
BTW, we can blame Sen. Jeffords' defection for Daschle becoming the Senate Majority Leader and having the opportunity to fight against missile defense in 2001.
The more defenses the better.
Also, the more offenses the better. A good pre-emptive strike against North Korea, say fifty or sixty small nukes, and a sternly worded warning to the Islamofascists of the world would stop a whole lot of the terrorist nonsense.
There are offensive things you can do with BP or its predecessor Smart Rocks.
The usual complaints... It's too expensive, and far too advanced for us to achieve, and what if another country doesn't like us because of it, and there should be multilateral access to the technology anyway beacuase anything else just isn't fair to someone, somewhere.
These are the same idiots that said all the Russians would have to do is spin their ICBMs if they wanted to render SDI ineffective. What a bunch of maroons.
Ping! Maybe you'll have a good opinion to add on this weapons issue.
Thanks for the ping!