Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor
Forty Billion Dollars is a heck of a lot of money. It seems like an even larger number when you realize that just one defense program spent that large sum, and it has arguably been a disaster. I am talking about the highly political missile defense system program. You have probably heard about that program. It is supposed to stop any wild-eyed dictators from successfully sending any ICBM’s into our air space. It may just be an amazingly expensive pipe dream!
“Within minutes, the interceptor’s three boosters had burned out and fallen away, and the kill vehicle was hurtling through space at 4 miles per second. It was supposed to crash into the mock enemy warhead and obliterate it.
At a cost of about $200 million, the mission had failed.
Eleven months later, when the U.S. Missile Defense Agency staged a repeat of the test, it failed, too.
The next attempted intercept, launched from Vandenberg on July 5, 2013, also ended in failure.
The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD, was supposed to protect Americans against a chilling new threat from “rogue states” such as North Korea and Iran. But a decade after it was declared operational, and after $40 billion in spending, the missile shield cannot be relied on, even in carefully scripted tests that are much less challenging than an actual attack would be, a Los Angeles Times investigation has found
The Missile Defense Agency has conducted 16 tests of the system’s ability to intercept a mock enemy warhead. It has failed in eight of them, government records show.” LA Times
I think one of the most amazing facts in this story is that these tests issues are much easier than the problems an actual attack might present. So would an actual attack produce results even worse than 50%? Not only has the GMD failed one half of the time, it may be getting worse as the years and money drag on. According to many experts the GMD system was put into operation even before it had been proven to be successful.
“Despite years of tinkering and vows to fix technical shortcomings, the system’s performance has gotten worse, not better, since testing began in 1999. Of the eight tests held since GMD became operational in 2004, five have been failures. The last successful intercept was on Dec. 5, 2008. Another test is planned at Vandenberg, on the Santa Barbara County coast, later this month.
The GMD system was rushed into the field after President George W. Bush, in 2002, ordered a crash effort to deploy “an initial set of missile defense capabilities.” The hurried deployment has compromised its effectiveness in myriad ways.
“The system is not reliable,” said a recently retired senior military official who served under Presidents Obama and Bush. “We took a system that was still in development — it was a prototype — and it was declared to be ‘operational’ for political reasons.” LA Times
Not only is this system an expensive boondoggle to hand produce, it costs at least $200 million dollars just to set up one of the elaborate tests that have proven to be ineffective. What could this country have done with Forty Billion dollars in the last decade alone? How many roads, bridges, high-speed rail advances could have been made with that kind of capital?
Of course, politicians of many stripes have bought into the system, even with its repeated failures. These same politicians balk at paying for unemployment compensation, or for food stamps or the many infrastructure and social programs that this country desperately needs, but they have no problem forking over Forty Billion to save us from rogue states that don’t even have the capability to hit us with offensive missiles.
When will we as a country take control of the military industrial complex( MIC) that keeps siphoning large dollars from legitimate defense programs and much-needed domestic spending? Can we possibly gain control of the MIC without getting money out of our political elections? Can we gain control over the defense industry when they have such control over the politicians approving these huge sums of money for unproven systems?
While many experts have called for an end to or a reduction in this expensive enterprise, many politicians are trying to expand the scope and cost of the GMD program. “Despite GMD’s problems, influential members of Congress have protected its funding and are pushing to add silos and interceptors in the Eastern U.S. at a potential cost of billions of dollars.
Boeing Co. manages the system for the Pentagon. Raytheon Co. manufactures the kill vehicles. Thousands of jobs in five states, mostly in Alabama and Arizona, depend directly or indirectly on the program.
The Obama administration, after signaling that it would keep the number of interceptors at the current 30, now supports expanding the system. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called for deploying 14 new interceptors at Ft. Greely by late 2017.
Missile Defense Agency officials declined to be interviewed for this article. A spokesman, Richard Lehner, said in a statement that the agency was working “to conduct component testing and refurbishment of the interceptors currently deployed to … improve their reliability.” ” LA Times
It is obvious that the military industrial complex has control of many in Congress and in the White House. Therefore, it may be an uphill battle to try to stop the program. However, if we do not try to at least force the program to prove its worth, how will we ever find the funds to heal our nation’s workforce and infrastructure?
If you had the call, what would you do with the money? Should the GMD program be halted or reduced? Can we ever gain control over the military industrial complex? If so, how?
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