A Failure To Intercept: New York Times

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DeM Banter: and it comes down to this… we can’t do it? Really? I think we forget that the first aircraft flew 12 seconds and 120 feet…and we debated if the aircraft would ever be anything more than a novelty. Further, what happens when that first nuke really does launch from Iran, nKorea, or…???… and we know we could have done something to stop it? This is America! This program should be key to any National Security Strategy…We are so much better than failure…we are the world’s innovators, the inventors, unless….perhaps that was so last century… yup… I’m still wondering where the lions are…

July 25, 2013
Pg. 22

After 30 years of research and an estimated $250 billion investment, the Pentagon’s defense program against intercontinental ballistic missiles from adversaries like Iran and North Korea had another failed test this month. The advanced missile interceptor launched on July 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California failed to hit its target over the Pacific Ocean, the third consecutive dud. The military has tested the ground-based midcourse defense system 16 times; only eight were successful, the last in 2008.

One might expect the record to be near perfect since the tests are rigged, conducted in what the program’s director, Vice Admiral James Syring of the Navy, calls a “controlled, scripted environment.” The Pentagon is doing a review to determine the cause of the latest failure. But whatever the cause, it is apparent that the program’s weaknesses go beyond this case.

Two studies — one by the National Academy of Sciences released in September and another by a task force of the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board in 2011 — have expressed doubts about whether the technology to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles can ever be truly reliable and whether the program is worth the cost. Some experts describe its technical core as shattered.

Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, raised a lot of the right questions when Vice Admiral Syring testified on last Wednesday before the Senate appropriations subcommittee on defense. Mr. Durbin noted that the system’s track record “has not improved over time” and wondered how the Pentagon could be confident defenses will work when tests are conducted against intermediate range missiles but not the longest range and fastest missile, the intercontinental ballistic missile, which could reach the United States.

Predictably, many Congressional Republicans blame the problems on President Obama and budget cuts supported by the Democrats. But experts say design flaws crept into the program during the George W. Bush administration and the problems were compounded by a rush to deploy the system before tests were run. Along with the Pentagon, many Republicans are now pushing for more missile defense tests as well as the development of 14 more ground-based interceptors (for a total of 44 at sites in California and Alaska) for an additional cost of $1 billion. Some lawmakers also want a new missile defense site on the East Coast that could run as high as $3.6 billion.

The North Korean and Iranian missile programs are a threat that the United States must guard against. But it doesn’t make sense to keep throwing money at a flawed system without correcting the problems first.

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