Jeffrey LewisAnon O’Moose on Missile Defense

One of our more engaged commentators sent along the following open letter to Representative Michael Turner (R-OH), commenting on some of the more interesting statements in his latest letter to the President Barack Obama.  He chose the nom de plume Anon O’Moose.

An Open Letter to Mr Turner, a Representative from Ohio

As an American taxpayer with engineering expertise in and historic experience with the topic of your letter to President Barack Obama on the 17th of April; I would like to address certain issues of fact in that letter. Missile Defense development consumes significant national treasure and personnel effort so careful adherence to fact based discussion is important to the security of the nation.

Your letter appears in your Congressional website at http://turner.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=329539

Certain elements of your letter refer to the National Academy of Sciences / National Research Council (NAS/NRC) report regarding missile defense development, the complete report is found at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13189

You did not cite the important messages regarding engineering and scientific talent needs and the apparent lacks of such talent within DOD/MDA based on multiple sources including the NAS/NRC work as cited by Dr Coyle at https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2013_01-02/Back-to-the-Drawing-Board-The-Need-for-Sound-Science-in-US-Missile-Defense

As a point of law and common sense predating the current Administration; US missile defenses are specifically not designed or capable against either the Russian or the Chinese nuclear deterrent forces. Discussions with the Russians and the Chinese with regard to US missile defense postures against either rogue or accidental missile attack do not decrease US security. In the case of Russian or Chinese actions to curb rogues or enhance their nuclear forces command surety; such discussions significantly enhance US security against missile attack.

You made several specific points in the letter where you criticize the Administration; I repeat them with your bolding of section headings for clarity.

Unproven Technologies (Re SM3-IIB v GBI)

“The previous U.S. missile defense strategy relied upon proven technologies”.

Incorrect, the only ‘proven’ aspect of the GMD technology base is that it has the worst test record of any un-cancelled program in DOD. In their diligent review, the NAS/NRC panel recommended essentially scrapping the existing GMD entirely and starting a properly disciplined program to address BMD needs; their GMD-E proposal has no relationship to the existing GMD.

Abandoning our Allies (Re Bush 3rd site and EPAA Phase IV)

Such assertions require specific data to clearly assess whether or not Administration actions either increase prior risks “placing the United States at greater risk” or  “alienated” allies.

The Bush 3rd site included two key elements, the European Midcourse Radar (EMR) sited at a former Soviet/Warsaw pact missile base in Brdy near 49.85N, 14.165E and the European 3rd Site for interceptors, the Redzikowo Warsaw Pact airbase. The asset locations were generally unsuitable for technical coverage for the stated missions and appeared to have been selected for political purposes. Unlike the implicit assumption of your letter, none of the Bush 3rd site plan appeared to have been a credible functional approach for either the defense of the US homeland or to defend the Allies who were requested to host those facilities.

Central to the credibility question, the EMR as a large phased array with early 1990s processing technologies would have a tiny ‘soda-straw’ view with some minimal range depth for detections. It is poor engineering to expect such a system to operate without precision cuing and the Bush proposal failed to provide needed cuing capabilities. Further, the expectation of relocating the critical radar equipment from years of exposure in the tropical marine environment of Kwajalein to the Czech Republic fails sanity checks as to technical risks, cost and schedules.

The Bush plan would have emplaced 10 GBI interceptors without the 3rd stage of the present missiles to reduce the minimum flight time (but also reduce the velocity of those interceptors) near the Polish Baltic coast (within 200km of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad). Given their commonality with the current GBI interceptor stage (EKV) all present GBI issues and limitations would be present in the European GBIs. Missile engagements are always limited by sensor support, with the EMR, the Bush plan offered no credible sensing support for GBIs to defend the US. Finally, in the event that the Iranians applied some modest design margins on their undeveloped ICBMs, the GBIs could be simply overflown.

The Russian reactions to US plans for emplacing large missiles near their borders (threatening to emplace Iskander missiles — potentially nuclear tipped — in Kaliningrad) are responsive to a perceived challenge to their strategic deterrent or to suspicions of a nefarious US plan to put offensive systems in those silos. As to the interactions the Bush plan created with our Allies, the Czech government that agreed to host the EMR was defeated in the subsequent election and the Poles specifically requested that the US provide them with F16s to replenish their air force as payment for the host nation agreement.

The European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) first appeared in Congressional Budget Office documents apparently ghost-written by a defense contractor. Similar analysis of EPAA phase IV (SM3-IIB and attendant support), shows the Administration failed to understand the inherent deficiencies of European missile basing for the Homeland defense as the best locations for interceptors are in Northern UK, Iceland or Greenland. The current Administration was certainly unsophisticated by failing to properly restrain contractor marketing by asserting technically adequate government architecture analysis.  The recent cancellation of EPAA phase IV appears to lack technical downsides for either US or European defenses and represents appropriate conservation of scarce resources.

Using our Nation’s Security as a Gambling Chip

Interactions with other nations involve risk, you can call that “gambling” if such terms are desired. Administrations do manage risks and the point of ‘all forms of national power’ is to allow the US to suitably concentrate efforts to effectively manage risks while investing the minimum prudent resources.

Intelligence is an exercise in “gambling” where the analysts apply the available material to form an assessment (a “gamble” where they don’t have to believe it enough to risk personal funds). The current public interpretation of bad missile mockups on parade is a canard; ICBM development is a highly public engineering exercise that is non-credible without successful flight testing.

US nuclear forces exist and serve in a deterrent role as a critical part of the “gamble”; effective missile defenses merely allow less apocalyptic responses in the event of accident or failed deterrence.

Underfunding of Missile Defense

“Your Administration has consistently underfunded missile defense.”

BMD has always been politicized; it lacks military need definition, lacks a coherent architecture definition and holds a waiver against normal DOD oversight. What are rational funding comparisons in this environment?

Russian and Chinese Approval of Defense of the Homeland

“So why is your Administration now repeating a failed policy initiative by offering to China the same deal in trying to dissuade North Korea?”

To avoid wasting the ‘one billion dollars’ for buying 14 more GBIs (given their dubious technical heritage) and refitting the defective silo implementations of missile field one at Fort Greely. If successful, such negotiations would be a genius foreign policy coup, saving taxpayer dollars while simultaneously enhancing national security.

No Quid Pro Quo

Treaties between the US and the Russian Federation form the basis in the current domain of mutual nuclear deterrence; the underlying basis of those treaties is shaped by “Quid Pro Quo”. It would significantly enhance security by removing some aspects of uncertainty if the Chinese could join those normative behaviors. Missile defenses cannot be expected to blunt or degrade the Russian or Chinese deterrent forces and serious attempts to change that situation would rapidly exceed the entire current Federal budget.
A Failed Strategy

“… leaves the United States without an articulated missile defense strategy.”

The absence of mission definition, the absence of an architecture and the continuing ad-hoc political exhortations to spend more money on contractor concepts without proper government oversight shows that the United States has never had “an articulated missile defense strategy” from President Reagan’s speech onward.

Modest Recommendations for Representative Turner

1. Jointly establish the national security role and priority of missile defenses within defense; eliminate the wholly political nature of current discussions, this must be a joint position of both parties.

2. Jointly establish the acceptable risk levels and resource constraints appropriate to achieve the missile defense national security mission without endangering the fiscal security of the nation.

3. Assure, via Congressional oversight, that US BMD efforts are expertly staffed with scientific and engineering talent as is necessary for such a complex and difficult undertaking. Assure that DOD oversight is sufficiently rigorous to end the historic pattern of false-starts and failed programs that have plagued the US BMD program.

 

Comments

  1. Magpie (History)

    Awwww yeah.

    *fist bump*

  2. Jeannick (History)

    .
    “The absence of mission definition, the absence of an architecture and the continuing ad-hoc political exhortations to spend more money on contractor concepts without proper government oversight shows that the United States has never had “an articulated missile defense strategy”

    Outch! painful but probably true

    As for
    “the best locations for interceptors are in Northern UK, Iceland or Greenland”

    Northern Norway Varno X band radar anyone ?
    it’s just across from Severomorsk Naval base

  3. Moose2 (History)

    Regarding one of the links, which says that “Furthermore, when the committee asked the MDA to provide real signature data from all flight tests, the MDA “did not appear to know where to find them.”

    Isn’t it ironic that the President announces an open-data policy for the federal government when top officials at MDA couldn’t find data from past flight tests? Hint: ask the people at the bottom of the organization; they know where it is. Or is supposed to be.

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