What questionable military program did both former President Clinton and current resident President W. Bush support wholeheartedly?  The National Missile Defense (NMD) program.   This program is a highly suspicious use of our tax dollars and should be immediately scrapped. The technology will continue to be extremely expensive to produce and may never work, and allegations of scientific dishonesty in this program have been made and merit close examination.  Finally, this project is not worth its social and monetary costs.    Any Republican (or Democrat, even) member of Congress who is actually not a hypocrite should be screaming bloody murder over the taxes being siphoned down the drain by this program.

The recent New York Times article, “M.I.T. Studies Accusations of Lies and Cover-Up of Flaws in Antimissile system, (Jan. 2, 2003)” should not have been unexpected.  For several years, the more liberal press has sent out murmurs warning of fraud in the antimissile program, part of the NMD.  The scientist making the charges noted in the Times, Dr. Theodore Postol, is a tenured professor of security studies at M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and must be taken seriously. His basic claim is that a 1998 review of another fraud charge in a related matter, co-authored by the Lincoln Laboratory at M.I.T., was itself dishonest.  Multiple charges of academic dishonesty made by a professor at of the nation`s most prestigious technical universities should be examined as having possible merit and should prompt further examination of the entire program.  This program has also been heavily criticized by other scientists, especially those working with two groups, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Dr. Postol first made a name for himself as an antiballistic missile critic after the 1991 Gulf War, in which he criticized the Army`s contention that the Patriot missile defense system had shot down nearly all Iraqi Scud missiles.   Postol`s allegations that the Patriot did not work as the Army had stated eventually won acceptance; the mainstream press was forced to print the truth.  The type of technology used in the Patriot missile is key to the development of a functioning National Missile Defense.

National Missile Defense is not a new program and was first made famous during the Cold War when Ronald Reagan received enthusiastic support for his precursor version of NMD, titled the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), or what he called “Star Wars.”  The Bush version of the NMD program has received annual funding of approximately $7 or $8 billion per year since 2001 and was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office in 2002 to have a total cost of $238 billion by 2025.

Walter C. Uhler, a weapons acquisition executive in the Defense Department, wrote a review of the book Hit to Kill, by Bradley Graham, for The Nation magazine (Jan. 28, 2002).   In the review, Uhler makes the charge that not one of the efforts by the United States to defend itself against ballistic missiles has ever worked.   He notes that since the 1950`s, the U.S. has spent over $100 billion on various programs of this type, and none of these systems has ever functioned.    Most interestingly, he tells the story of retired Air Force chief of staff, Larry Welch, a member of a government missile defense review committee.   In 1998, Welch condemned the Clinton Administration`s version of the missile defense plan as a “rush to failure.”   According to Hit to Kill, when Larry Welsh was sitting on the review committee, an intelligence officer was sent down to brief the group.  The officer stated that he was not happy to be speaking to a “bunch of wacko missile-defense advocates,” at which point in time committee member and chief missile-defense advocate Donald Rumsfeld (now U.S. Secretary of Defense) stormed out of the room.   Mr. Rumsfeld of course now makes a living conjuring up policy based on another one of his fantasy dream sequences, the military threats emanating from Iraq.

The September 11, 2001 attack on the United States was made using readily available technology.  Box-cutters, the Internet, and a couple of commercial aircraft were probably all it took to launch a tremendous attack upon the United States.  The greatest threat to this nation is from individuals like Al Qaeda terrorists who do not possess ICBM missiles (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) and who favor more surprising modes of attack.   The National Missile Defense program is designed to shoot down incoming ICBM`s, not defend against box cutters and other low-cost surprises, so even if this system had been deployed (and worked), it would have been useless against an attack like the one that came on 9-11.  Russia, the only non-European country with ICBM`s capable of hitting the U.S., is very unlikely to launch a missile attack at this time or any point in the near future, so a missile defense program seems rather pointless at this time.   And, as several widely-reported news stories from the late 1990`s relayed, most of the full-scale tests of the NMD have been dismal failures:  the technology doesn`t even seem to work.  Dr. Postol of MIT believes it is possible that the handful of recently “successful” missile tests were rigged to succeed.

In addition to the misuse of taxpayers dollars, the United States` 2002 deployment of the NMD program has violated the cornerstone of international arms treaty, the 1972 Antiballistic Missile (ABM) agreement.    This treaty violation is considered by leaders around the world to have initiated a serious destabilizing effect on the control of nuclear arms and ICBM missile proliferation.    Russia has expressed serious dismay, and more frightening, North Korea has responded by abandoning all constraints.    The U.S. has acted very capriciously here and as Physicians for Social Responsibility states, this aspect of the NMD has had the effect of actually decreasing national security rather than increasing it.

The NMD program is highly suspect from a scientific view and is not likely to increase the security of the United States.   Much better uses can probably be found for the annual billions of dollars sent to this program and it is a true disgrace that the U.S. Congress seems to have no problem providing massive funding for this fiasco.   Sooner or later the American taxpayer, whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, will wake up and find that he and she has been the victim of what is at best a big mistake, or at worst, a massive scam.

Jack Byrom is a recipient of a 2002-2003 Ohio Academy of Science/ Ohio EPA Environmental Science scholarship and presented original research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Salt Lake City, UT in March 2003.  He will graduate from Capital University in December with a degree in Environmental Science.