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July 13, 2000

Last weekend’s colossal failure of the latest test of the Pentagon’s planned National Missile Defense (NMD) system may be just the jolt needed by policy-makers so attracted to high-tech visions of intercepting incoming missiles that they fail to appreciate the system’s severe limitations and serious negative implications. President Clinton – and his successor – should think twice before chasing a $60 billion plus contractor’s dream in an chimerical search for nuclear security.

  • The technology is unproven
The failure of this third flight test – following on the heels of a failed second test – makes it abundantly clear that President Clinton does not have the technical information he needs before he commits the US to build this weapons system.
  • Its test program has been deliberately “dumbed-down”
Even if the test had succeeded, it would have demonstrated little about the system’s capabilities to defend the US against ballistic missiles because it did not attempt to simulate a real-world threat.
  • In the real world, when it comes to nuclear missile attacks, this system can’t provide real “defense” against the “offense.”
A would-be missile attacker could overwhelm a defense system with large numbers of missiles and with decoys.
  • Missile defenses are useless against the more likely future attacks on the U.S., which would not be delivered by missiles.
A nuclear weapon is more likely to be delivered in a bale of marijuana, a truck, or a cruise missile. Long-range missiles are far more expensive and technically difficult than other means of delivery, and are far less accurate. Non-nuclear attacks – a more likely scenario – could mimic the World Trade Center, the Oklahoma Federal Building, and the Tokyo subway attacks.
  • Its politically-driven schedule amounts to a “rush to failure”
The failure of a relatively simple part of the system is a result of a testing and development program that is overly compressed and poorly managed. It is a “rush to failure” in the words of an internal Pentagon study chaired by former Air Force Chief Larry Welch.
  • US plans to build a defense system have interfered with achieving deep cuts in U.S. and Russian bloated and dangerous nuclear arsenals.
Russia perceives US plans to build a defense system -- AND retain thousands of nuclear weapons – as threatening. It has made it clear it will resist further nuclear reductions if the U.S. deploys a National Missile Defense.
  • US plans are also jeopardizing relations with China and our European allies.
Virtually every other country, including our closest allies, opposes the US plans. China, in particular, is concerned and has said it will increase its nuclear forces in response.
  • We’ve already spent over $80 billion on national missile defenses with little to show for it.
We’ve been pouring money into national missile defense for decades only to find that the way to security is to get rid of nuclear weapons and prevent other countries from acquiring them.

Learn about the W. Alton Jones Foundation's efforts to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

More information is available on other Web sites as well, for example, The Nuclear Files.

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