WASHINGTON -- February 14 -- Today's failed anti- missile test, the second in a row in which the interceptor never left its silo, highlights a key problem with the Bush administration's misguided anti-missile program. "It's clear that the program is being pushed ahead for political reasons regardless of its capability," said David Wright, co-director and senior scientist in the Global Security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"It's as if Henry Ford started up his automobile production line and began selling cars without ever taking one for a test drive. This interceptor has never been tested in an intercept test. Yet the Pentagon has already put eight of them in silos and is building at least another dozen before even knowing if they work," Wright said.
Of course, getting the interceptors out of the silo is only a part of the problem. Several recent technical analyses, including UCS's May 2004 analysis Technical Realities, showed that even with a working interceptor the anti-missile system could be defeated by very simple decoys that could easily be built by any country fielding a long-range missile.
"For the Pentagon to assert that the system has a defensive capability, in the face of such studies and in the absence of realistic tests, is irresponsible and potentially dangerous," said Wright.
In December 2002, President Bush declared his intention to deploy an operational anti-missile system by 2004. That deadline came and went without being met, and in the more than two years since the president's announcement there has not been a successful intercept test.
The administration has implicitly recognized the problems with the system. Officials recently stated that the system will not be declared operational, as it intended to do last year, but will instead be kept as an "emergency alert" capability.
"This administration has bought a lemon and there is no way to make lemonade," said Stephen Young, senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Given the system's track record, an 'emergency alert' capability provides no comfort to anyone. Congress should not spend another dime of the public's money until it can show this system would have some capability against a real attack."