Posted by Curt on 30 November, 2016 at 10:27 am. Be the first to comment!


Henry F. Cooper, Malcolm R. O’Neill, Robert L. Pfaltzgraff Jr. & Rowland H. Worrell:

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.

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