Jeffrey LewisQ: How Many Canadians Does It Take To Screw Missile Defense?

A: 100, I hope.

This is Canada-month for me: I was just in Montreal for a conference; I am heading to Switzerland for a space security workshop hosted by DFAIT to give a talk on missile defense and space security.

One hundred prominent Canadians have signed an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin calling on him “to keep Canada out of missile defence.” Much of the opposition in Canada stems from the relationship between missile defense and the weaponization of outer space. Canadian officials have implied the government will not participate in any system that includes space-based interceptors. The Foreign Minister told the House of Commons:

What matters for this debate and our decision is that our participation in the weaponization of space is not something that Canada will be part of nor that the Minister of National Defence or myself envisage being involved in.

Washington and Ottawa have attempted to finesse the issue by focusing on the land- and sea-based elements of the system, as Paul Cellucci, the US Ambassador to Canada, recently did in a speech to the Montreal Board of Trade . The Montreal Gazette reported that Cellucci told reporters that missile defense “is a defensive activity involving missiles based on land and sea. The suggestion that this implies the militarization of space is something we don/’t think follows.”

Cellucci/’s comment, however, is misleading:

1. The US National Policy on Ballistic Missile Defense (NSPD-23) commits the United States to the “development and testing of space-based defenses, specifically space-based kinetic energy (hit to kill) interceptors …”

2. Consistent with NSPD-23, the President/’s FY 2005 Defense Budget for the Missile Defense Agency includes:

$10.6 million to begin “development of a space based interceptor test bed.” “By 2011 – 2012, our space based test bed will have a thin constellation of 3 to 6 spacecraft on orbit.”

$68.0 million the Near Field Infra Red Experiment (NFIRE), a satellite that will simulate a ballistic missile intercecpt by launching “a kill vehicle for a fly-by of a burning missile.” MDA is not attempting to hit the ballistic missile and the KV lacks an axial stage that would allow the KV to conduct engagements in real world conditions. Although NFIRE is funded separately from the space-based test bed, the head of MDA testified that NFIRE will “provide additional data needed for the development of a space test bed.”

The FY 2005 Budget Request has substantially less funding for space-based defenses than the FY 2004 Request, which ran into opposition from Democrats and moderate Republicans, but I don/’t think we/’ve seen the last of Star Wars.