Missile Defense: $40 Billion Boondoggle!
A whole lotta contractors made a whole lotta money on Ronald Reagan’s “vision” for missile defense. And it still doesn’t work.
With a convulsive rumble, followed by billowing flames and exhaust, a sleek 60-foot rocket emerged from its silo at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.
It was a test of the backbone of the nation’s missile defense system. If North Korea or Iran ever launched nuclear weapons against the United States, the interceptors at Vandenberg and remote Ft. Greely, Alaska, would be called on to destroy the incoming warheads.
Scientists conducting the test at Vandenberg on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010, had left little to chance. They knew exactly when the target missile would be launched from an atoll in the Marshall Islands 4,900 miles away. They knew its precise dimensions, expected trajectory and speed.
Based on this and other data, they had estimated the route the interceptor’s heat-seeking “kill vehicle” would have to follow to destroy the target.
Within minutes, the interceptor’s three boosters had burned out and fallen away, and the kill vehicle was hurtling through space at 4 miles per second. It was supposed to crash into the mock enemy warhead and obliterate it.
At a cost of about $200 million, the mission had failed.
Eleven months later, when the U.S. Missile Defense Agency staged a repeat of the test, it failed, too.
The next attempted intercept, launched from Vandenberg on July 5, 2013, also ended in failure.
Now that we have your attention…
Despite years of tinkering and vows to fix technical shortcomings, the system’s performance has gotten worse, not better, since testing began in 1999. Of the eight tests held since GMD became operational in 2004, five have been failures. The last successful intercept was on Dec. 5, 2008. Another test is planned at Vandenberg, on the Santa Barbara County coast, later this month.
The GMD system was rushed into the field after President George W. Bush, in 2002, ordered a crash effort to deploy “an initial set of missile defense capabilities.” The hurried deployment has compromised its effectiveness in myriad ways.
“The system is not reliable,” said a recently retired senior military official who served under Presidents Obama and Bush. “We took a system that was still in development — it was a prototype — and it was declared to be ‘operational’ for political reasons.
In the face of catastrophic failure, the contractors have donned their rose-colored glasses:
Raytheon referred questions about GMD to Boeing, the prime contractor for the system.
A Boeing spokesman, Dexter Q. Henson, said the company “remains confident in the system’s ability to defeat potential adversaries.”
And yes, you should read the whole damn thing and take in the scale and scope of your tax dollars wasted.