Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lt. Gen. Robert Gard: National Missile Defense in Europe Premature and Unwise

The Center’s Lt. General Robert Gard (USA, ret.) put out an insightful report on missile defense this week. Titled National Missile Defense In Europe: Premature and Unwise, the full report is available here.

I had a chance to talk with General Gard about his report, which you can watch here or on the Council for a Livable World’s V-blog.

Gard’s report starts out with an overview of the administration’s proposal:

p.1 - The plan for the new European complex is to transfer a narrow-beam X-band midcourse tracking radar from the Pacific Test Range to the Czech Republic and to deploy up to 10 silo-based long-range inceptor missiles in Poland. The program also calls for forward-basing an acquisition radar—designed to provide detection, initial tracking, and cueing information—to a location not designated.

The national missile defense system, now called the Ground-Based Midcourse Missile Defense System (GMD), is being developed to protect the United States against a limited attack from warheads launched on long-range ballistic missiles by so-called rogue states. The intent is to destroy incoming weapons during their flight in space, called the “midcourse” phase of their trajectory.

Gard then identifies multiple problems with the system that demonstrates the Bush proposal to indeed be “premature and unwise”, as suggested by the report’s title. Below are some highlights of the report, with the full text available here.
p.1 - GMD is still in its developmental phase, by no means ready for deployment. It has not demonstrated the capability under realistic conditions to destroy a target in space, and operational testing of the system is not yet even scheduled. Knowledgeable defense scientists believe the system will never be able to defeat countermeasures that any nation capable of fielding complex intercontinental ballistic missiles will be able to employ with ease.

p.2 - Recently… the [Missile Defense Agency, MDA] concluded that without deploying elements of GMD in Europe, other system components could protect the entire U.S. against an Iranian attack by 2011, well before that country will be able to field an intercontinental missile capability.

MDA also claims that deploying GMD in Europe will promote regional stability. But the announcement of the deployment and the reaction to it has in fact created considerable instability. Russian President Vladimir Putin has angrily denounced the deployment… Carrying out Putin’s earlier threat, Russia formally suspended participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty on July 14.

p.3 - The complex in Europe will have only 20 minutes to detect, track, and intercept a missile launched from Iran. This would present a highly difficult challenge to a system that has met stringent test standards and is manned by a well-trained crew on quick-reaction alert. But essential operational testing to prove the effectiveness of the system is not yet even projected for the European complex.

The European deployment is currently estimated to cost a little more than $4 billion. If past is prologue, this will increase substantially.

The bottom line is a no-brainer: the third GMD missile defense complex, programmed for deployment in Europe, should be put on ice.

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