“President-elect Trump should direct the Pentagon to revive SDI plans for destroying ballistic missiles in their boost phase, shortly after launch — when a ballistic missile is most vulnerable and before it releases its nuclear warheads and decoys. We should not continue depending solely on the more expensive midcourse- and terminal-phase intercept capability.” … “How Trump Can Revive Reagan’s Defense Vision,” National Review, November 29, 2016
Click here for last week’s message, which traced history pertinent to the welcome vision expressed by President-Elect Donald Trump in Philadelphia last September, namely:
“We propose to rebuild the key tools of missile defense, starting with the Navy cruisers that are the foundation of our missile defense capabilities in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. As we expand our Navy toward the goal of 350 ships, we will also procure additional modern destroyers that are designed to handle the missile defense mission in the coming years.” … Candidate Donald Trump, September 2016 Speech in Philadelphia
As we explained, his vision explicitly echoes the first phase of the recommended mandate for building truly effective ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems from the Heritage Foundation Team B during the 1990s and the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense (IWG) since early in the first decade of the 21st century: “First from the Sea, then from Space!”
As he said, improving our existing Aegis BMD capability now on some 35 U.S. ships and several Japanese ships apparently is also the first phase of his proposal to “rebuild the key tools of missile defense.” My message this week is that President Elect Trump also should expedite programs to achieve the second phase of the Heritage and IWG game plan—namely to build effective space based BMD systems. This approach would restore the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) vision pursued by President Ronald Reagan.
Specifically, we have recommended that development of the Brilliant Pebbles space based interceptor program should be reinstated after its dormancy since 1993. The reasoning for this initiative is outlined in the following National Review article, published yesterday. (Click here for a link to the webpage article.)
How Trump Can Fulfill Reagan’s Defense Vision
It’s time for a bold leader to bring back Star Wars.
By Henry F. Cooper, Malcolm R. O’Neill, Robert L. Pfaltzgraff Jr. & Rowland H. Worrell — National Review, November 29, 2016 /http://www.nationalreview.com/article/442532/trump-defense-spending-bring-back-missile-defense
Growing terrorist attacks, accelerating nuclear-weapon/ballistic-missile threats, and atrophying U.S. military capabilities — President-elect Donald Trump faces a dangerous, complex world.
To get a sense of just how dangerous that world is, consider this: Rogue states and even terrorists have or could soon have the ability to knock out the American electric grid, using a nuclear weapon detonated high above the United States.
According to 2008 testimony by members of the congressionally appointed EMP Commission, many months of outage caused by such an electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) attack would return life in our just-in-time economy to 18th-century conditions, without the benefits of the then-existing agrarian society — leading to the death of most Americans from starvation, disease, and societal collapse.
Today, North Korea can execute such an attack. Iran will develop it, if it does not possess it already. Even terrorists could acquire nuclear weapons, mate them to easily purchased ballistic missiles from an existing black market, and launch an EMP strike from vessels cruising near our coasts (especially from the Gulf of Mexico).
These existential threats are exacerbated by aspiring superpower competitors. Russia is ramping up its nuclear and missile modernization programs, first-use nuclear strategy, and belligerent actions in East Europe and elsewhere. China is modernizing its nuclear and space systems and upping its aggression in the South China Sea.
Both nations help rogue states and terrorists develop asymmetrical strategies and capabilities to conduct cyber and EMP attacks on critical U.S. civilian, commercial, and military targets. Both also pose a growing ballistic-missile threat to the American homeland, our overseas troops, and our allies.
For over 20 years, our homeland ballistic-missile-defense (BMD) efforts have focused on countering only “limited” attacks from North Korea and Iran — that is, from at most a few ballistic missiles. We have only 40 ground-based interceptors in Alaska and four in California, and additional interceptors cost much more than the missiles they are intended to shoot down.
U.S. military leaders readily admit our current missile-defense programs, both deployed and in development, make little sense against these rapidly evolving threats. In fact, our current defenses can be overwhelmed by missiles costing much less than our existing defenses. As former commander of our homeland defenses Admiral William Gortney said over a year ago, “We are on the wrong side of the cost curve.”
We need to place a high priority, therefore, on building more cost-effective, ballistic-missile-defense systems. Thankfully, we have a foundation to build on: The same idea was foreseen by President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which was abandoned for purely political reasons by the Clinton administration in 1993 and has not been revived since.
In particular, President-elect Trump should direct the Pentagon to revive SDI plans for destroying ballistic missiles in their boost phase, shortly after launch — when a ballistic missile is most vulnerable and before it releases its nuclear warheads and decoys. We should not continue depending solely on the more expensive midcourse- and terminal-phase intercept capability.
The most effective option is a space-based system that can stop missiles beginning in their boost phase, an idea judged technically feasible in 1990 with the technology emerging then. That is, at the very least, we can produce a cost-effective solution based on SDI concepts pioneered a quarter century ago.
In particular, Brilliant Pebbles, a constellation of small space-based interceptors designed to engage attacking ballistic missiles in all phases of their flight trajectory, underwent numerous scientific and engineering peer reviews and was approved by the Pentagon’s acquisition authorities in 1991.
By the 1992 election, SDI technological developments had vindicated President Reagan’s foresight. Despite these successes, President Reagan’s political opponents sought to undermine SDI at every step of the way — and Brilliant Pebbles, the focal point of the SDI architecture in 1992, was a major target for anti-SDI activities.
Following the election, President Clinton emphasized international treaties instead of effective defenses. Political, not technological, constraints led to cancellation of the Brilliant Pebbles program in 1993, and ever since, space-based defense concepts have been neglected.
This neglect is despite the fact that the ensuing decades have seen technological advances — by businesses, NASA, and the military — that enable lighter mass, lower cost, higher performance technologies, and very high reliability. To top it off, today’s commercial space sector now promises drastically reduced space-launch costs.
Rigorous cost analyses conducted by the head of Pentagon acquisition programs in the late 1980s (independent of the SDI) estimated Brilliant Pebbles would cost $10 billion in 1988 dollars — about $20 billion today — for research, development, deployment, and 20 years of operations. A new Brilliant Pebbles program should cost even less while providing greater protection than all current U.S. land- and sea-based missile defenses.
A 21st-century Brilliant Pebbles system would protect the U.S. homeland, our overseas troops, and our friends and allies against ballistic missiles of all types — including against EMP attacks. It would make missile defense cost-effective, inverting the current, pricey dynamic that favors our enemies’ less expensive offensive technology.
It would greatly enhance our deterrence policy, particularly as a central element of “deterrence by denial” (the ability to defend and protect vitally important targets). Moreover, Brilliant Pebbles would also support other vital U.S. national-security missions and protect the critical space assets on which practically all U.S. military operations depend.
Reagan understood missile defense could help make America as great and safe as it could be. Now it falls to President Trump to follow through on that brilliant vision.
— Ambassador Henry F. Cooper was SDI director, chief U.S. negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union, and deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Strategic and Space Systems. Lieutenant General Malcolm R. O’Neill, USA (Ret.), was deputy SDI director, director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Dr. Robert L. Pfaltzgraff Jr. is president of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (IFPA), Inc., and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of International Security Studies at The Fletcher School, Tufts University, and chairman of the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense. Colonel Rowland “Rhip” H. Worrell, USAF (Ret.) was director of the SDI Brilliant Pebbles Task Force, director of the National Test Facility Joint Program Office, and vice commander of the USAF Space Warfare Center.
The Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (IFPA) yesterday also published a White Paper by the same authors, detailing, with many footnotes, an expansion of these bottom lines, titled Missile Defense: Challenges and Opportunities for the Trump Administration. Click here for this important discussion, which also included more discussion on the EMP threat and the need to harden our electric power grid.
The Conclusions/Recommendations from that report continue to reflect the “First from the Sea, Then from Space” perspective discussed in last week’s message. Included should be Aegis BMD ships, Aegis Ashore sites deployed on military bases especially along the U.S. Gulf Coast to counter southern trajectory threats, and development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to provide early warning and boost-phase intercept as a short-term response to these threats. The National Missile Defense Act of 1999 should also be amended to remove its limit on missile defense development to defend only against “limited” attacks. We should:
- Move beyond the “limited” attack mission and confront the increasing threat posed by Russia and China’s belligerent behavior and growing military capabilities which may become available to their surrogate states—and even terrorist groups.
- Develop and deploy twenty-first-century cost-effective space-based defense systems to address the rapidly evolving security setting described in this White Paper. They would protect the U.S. homeland, our overseas troops, and friends and allies against ballistic missiles in all phases of their flight. Their boost-phase intercept capability would provide the most effective way to defeat ballistic missiles carrying multiple warheads and/or decoys, including against high altitude EMP attacks that might be launched from anywhere on earth to be detonated over the United States. It would also support other vital national security missions.
- Initiate a crash program to deploy a twenty-first-century Brilliant Pebbles space-based interceptor system building on technologies of the SDI era that were sufficiently mature to be approved in 1991 by the Pentagon’s acquisition authorities to enter a demonstration-validation (DemVal) phase. Such a system would enhance deterrence (by denial) and escalation control for assured survival in a security environment marked by the growing availability of nuclear weapons and delivery systems to a variety of actors.
- Harden the electric power grid and prepare to reconstitute quickly key portions to restore essential services if the grid is lost from a natural or manmade EMP event and/or a cyber attack. Top priority should be to protect our nuclear reactors to avoid radiation hazards and help reinstate the grid after a major blackout.
Now is a real opportunity for President Elect Donald Trump to return to the vision championed by President Ronald Reagan and his SDI. All part of making America Great Again!
Can’t happen too soon. Stay tuned!!!
What can you do?
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