Jeffrey LewisGriffin to Head NASA

Don’t let the “Opie” grin
fool you. He’s nuts, too.

President Bush will nominate Michael Griffin to succeed Sean O’Keefe as NASA Administrator.

Despite drawing bipartisan praise, Griffin’s missile defense background— he served as deputy for technology at the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization—should raise alarm.

Griffin was a signatory to a Heritage Foundation report entitled Defending America: Ending America’s Vulnerability to Ballistic Missiles (1996).

The roster of the Missile Defense Study Team is a “who’s who” of right-wing missile defense advocates.

The report, which bears Griffin’s signature, makes two claims that ought stop the heaping of praise upon Griffin.

Griffin is wrong on China

Defending America… evidences a visceral fear of China. After accusing the Clinton Administration of “being overly sanguine about the potential threat from China,” Team B endorsed Samuel Huntington’s claim that “A new form of arms competition is thus occurring between the Islamic-Confucian states and the West.”

This frankly bizarre view of U.S.-China relations likely signals the termination of tentative steps toward Sino-US space cooperation that began with Chinese engineers making presentations at a NASA workshop and CNSA head Sun Laiyan’s courtesy visit to then-NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe.

Griffin is wrong on Space-Based Missile Defense

Defending America… concludes “A robust system of space defenses consisting of SBIs and SBLs should be fielded as soon as funding and political constraints would permit.”

It’s too much, I know, to ask the NASA Administrator under the Bush Administration to be an advocate civil uses of space. But at least he could be someone who believes in evidence, no?

To judge by Defending America…, Griffin is just another space-based missile defense ideologue. Defending America… serves up the familiar, uncritically enthusiastic cost and feasibility estimates that have become a staple of conservative missile defense advocacy. For example, Defending America… asserts that “The total acquisition cost for deploying and maintaining a 1,000 SBI constellation for ten years after deployment would be $12 billion-$15 billion” and that “acquisition … and ten-year operating costs [of a Space-Based Laser constellation] through about 2015 are estimated to be about $15 billion-$18 billion.”

Defending America… simply asserts its conclusions, offering no evidence to support its technical and budgetary assessments.

The Congressional Budget Office on at least three occassions (1996, 2002 and 2004) has considered the costs of space-based interceptors and lasers. The American Physical Society questions the feasibility of space-based boost phase intercept.

The shallow nature of the analysis in Defending America…—and Griffin’s uncritical decision to affix his signature to the document—suggest an uncurious mind motivated more by ideology than evidence or reason.

Come to think of it, maybe that explains the nomination.

Update: One reader notes that I should mention the date of Defending America… to avoid “giving the reader the misconception that the report is more contemporaneous than it actually is.” Duly noted.