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US missile testing in the Pacific
11 November 1999
Dear Friends and Colleagues throughout the Pacific,
Re: Sign-or or sample comments on Draft NMD EIS
The Pentagon recently finished a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed national missile defense. They are accepting public comments on the EIS until November 15, 1999.
Below is the text of a written comment on the Draft EIS recently released on the proposed deployment of a national missile defense. Organizations are encouraged to submit their own comments to:
Ms. Julia Hudson
Alternatively, organizations can sign on to this statement by contacting Joan Wade at Disarmament Clearinghouse by email: email@example.com or phone 202-898-0150 ext. 232, or fax: 202-898-0172.
Written comments are to the Pentagon due by November 15. Sign-ons must be received by COB Thursday, November 11.
You can also provide comments over the internet, at:
or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written Comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on National Missile Defense Deployment
The following organizations are strongly opposed to the proposed deployment of a national missile defense.
President Clinton has announced he will decide whether to deploy a national missile defense in June or July 2000. According to the President, that decision will be based on four factors: the readiness of the technology, the impact on arms control and relations with Russia, the cost effectiveness, and the threat. On each of these counts, the case for deployment is weak at best.
1. The technology is unproven, and cannot be shown to be reliable or effective by next summer's scheduled decision.
2. Unless Russia agrees to modify it, deployment would violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, a move that could unravel the entire nuclear non-proliferation regime and substantially increase the nuclear threat to the United States.
3. The cost of the system is unclear and likely to spiral upwards far beyond the $10.5 billion the Clinton Administration has budgeted over the next five years. The system cannot be shown to be effective and reliable under the current budget and deployment schedule.
4. The low-risk threat cited as justification for deployment, particularly North Korea's small and untested long-range missile arsenal, does not warrant the damage U.S. missile defense deployment would wreak on relations with Russia and China.
Each of these factors is reviewed below in more detail.
1. The readiness of the technology: Unproven by next summer, and by 2005
By next June, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization will have conducted only three intercept tests of the proposed national missile defense system. Nineteen such tests are scheduled before the first limited system is scheduled to go online, in late 2005. The first intercept attempt, on Octobera 2, hit its target. However, this was only a test of the "kill vehicle," the last component that destroys the incoming warhead. The booster rocket, the radars, and the integrated management system were not tested. In fact, only one of the first three tests will involve the complete system, and all three will use surrogate parts, not the actual components.
So few tests cannot show the system to be reliable and effective by next summer's scheduled deployment decision. Even by 2005, when the system is scheduled to finish its initial deployment, the additional tests cannot prove this highly complex system to be reliable against real-world threats. For example, the Patriot, adopted from an anti-aircraft missile system, achieved a perfect test record, hitting its target in all 17 of its intercept attempts. However, when used in the field during the Gulf War, it failed dramatically.
2. The effect on arms control: Increasing nuclear dangers
The Clinton Administration is currently discussing with Russia modifications to the ABM Treaty that would allow the U.S. to deploy a "limited" national missile defense. Both Clinton Administration and Russian officials have repeatedly stated that the ABM Treaty remains the "cornerstone of strategic stability." To date, Russia has opposed all changes to the ABM Treaty and declared that U.S. withdrawal from it or insistence on changes would end the START process that is reducing strategic nuclear arsenals. This would leave Russia with 6,000 warheads that could hit the United States, many ready for launch within 15 minutes of a decision to attack. China already perceives that U.S. efforts to build a missile defense are intended to weaken the Chinese deterrent. China's current arsenal is around 20 long-range, single warhead missiles. However, it is in a slow modernization program to build longer-range missiles with multiple warheads. China would likely react to U.S. deployment of a missile defense by increasing the both the size of its arsenal and the pace of its improvements. Evidence of China's response to U.S. talk of abrogating the ABM Treaty is already developing, with Reuters reporting on October 25 that China recently added $9.7 billion to its defense budget to improve its nuclear arsenal.
3. Cost Effectiveness: Unsubstantiated
In January 1999, the Clinton Administration added $6.6 billion for procurement to its five year plans for national missile defense, creating a $10.5 billion total budget. However, most estimates expect even the small initial system envisioned in that budget would cost far more. The General Accounting Office estimated that it would cost $18 to $28 billion to deploy a small system. This merely adds to the over $60 billion spent since President Ronald Reagan launched his Strategic Defense Initiative in 1983, money that has not lead to the deployment of a single effective system. It will take far more testing, and substantially increased budgets, to deploy a system that can be shown to be reliable and effective.
4. The Threat: Does not warrant rushed early deployment
The proposed national missile defense system is being developed in an attempt to respond to the potential threat from so-called rogue states, specifically North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. North Korea, which has of these three by far the most advanced capability, recently agreed to halt its missile flight test program while negotiating with the United States. It has not tested a missile capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear warhead.
On Iran, experts are divided on whether it will be able to field a missile that could threaten the U.S. within the next decade. Iraq is under severe international sanctions that effectively hinder it from developing any new missiles. Neither country would be able to field an intercontinental missile if the decision to deploy is delayed until the missile defense technology is shown to be effective.
Postponing the decision to deploy a national missile defense is an
extremely low-risk course of action. Put simply, deploying a national
missile defense MAY slightly reduce the low risk of a catastrophic attack
on the U.S. carried out by a very few nuclear-armed missiles. That is true
IF it proves capable of effectively intercepting incoming warheads.
However, it WILL increase the risk of massive attack carried out with
hundreds or thousands of such missiles that will destroy the United States
entirely, along with much of the globe.
Link to main page on nuclear testing.
Link to main page on nuclear testing.