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Obama Missile Defense Priorities Part Three

The fact is that the basic hit-to-kill technology of U.S. BMD programs has been very successful. From 2001 to 2007, successful intercepts were achieved 34 times out of 42 attempts.
by Baker Spring, Peter Brookes | James Jay Carafano
Washington (UPI) Jan 19, 2009
The rigorous testing program that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has called for cannot follow traditional acquisition procedures because ballistic missile defenses constitute a complex system of systems.

Traditional U.S. Department of Defense acquisition procedures require operational testing prior to procurement, but this is impossible for ballistic missile defense and a limited number of other weapons systems because the system of systems has to be built in order to permit testing for operational effectiveness.

For example, the U.S. Department of Defense did not require operational testing of the Global Positioning System satellite constellation as a comprehensive network before procurement of the first satellite. It would have been impossible to field this very valuable defense system on that basis.

The same is true for ballistic missile defense. It must proceed by incremental fielding and testing steps that take place concurrently. Further, any attempt to use the testing regime to demonstrate a perfect defense will give potential enemies more time to exploit current U.S. vulnerabilities.

Obama has questioned the effectiveness of the missile defense program in his paper "Barack Obama and Joe Biden on Defense Issues," published Nov. 12, 2008, on

The fact is that the basic hit-to-kill technology of U.S. BMD programs has been very successful. From 2001 to 2007, successful intercepts were achieved 34 times out of 42 attempts.

Obama's skepticism, however, may stem from a perspective that views individual elements of the missile defense program apart from one another. If Obama examined the midcourse defense element alone, for example, he might conclude it could be defeated by countermeasures designed to confuse or overwhelm the midcourse interceptors or that it would provide inadequate protection against a missile carrying an electromagnetic pulse warhead.

The boost-phase and terminal-phase elements of the missile defense program, however, render these countermeasures ineffective, and its boost-phase elements are much more effective than midcourse and terminal defenses against an EMP attack. A layered defense that includes boost-phase, midcourse-phase and terminal-phase elements will constitute an effective defense.

Obama therefore should preserve the layered concept in the development, testing and deployment plan for ballistic missile defense and judge its overall effectiveness accordingly, as was argued by the Independent Working Group in its report "Missile Defense, the Space Relationship and the Twenty-First Century."

(Baker Spring is F.M. Kirby research fellow in national security policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies; Peter Brookes is senior fellow for national security affairs in the Davis Institute; and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is assistant director of the Davis Institute and senior research fellow for national security and homeland security in the Allison Center at The Heritage Foundation.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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New US president could order missile shield review: official
Brussels (AFP) Jan 19, 2009
President-elect Barak Obama could order a review of US missile shield plans after he takes office to see how the system is evolving and whether it is cost effective, a senior US official said Monday.

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