Statement of William R. Graham PHD to the House Armed Services Committee on
Nuclear Missile Defense and the ABM Treaty
Dated October 13, 1999

U.S. Policy Regarding National Missile Defense

Mr. Chairman, distinguished Members of the Committee on Armed Services, thank you for inviting me to testify today on U.S. Policy Regarding National Missile Defense and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Today, I would like to discuss the importance of developing and building a national missile defense, especially in light of continuing developments in the strategic threat environment. In brief, my testimony will discuss the current Administration's NMD policy, highlight significant developments in the threat environment, outline applicable NMD technologies that are responsive to current and emerging threats, and outline a few of the significant disadvantages confronting the United States from its continued adherence to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. My concern with the developing world ballistic missile threat is derived from my experience serving as a member of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, known as the Rumsfeld Commission, and is supported by the current National Intelligence Estimate on ballistic missile threats to the United States through 2015. Mr. Chairman, I ask that my prepared remarks be included as part of the record.

The Clinton Administration's NMD Policy: 3+3 = "Wait and See"

The Clinton Administration's policy on national missile defense has been primarily focused on assessing the threats confronting the United States and less on developing and deploying an adequate missile defense system to protect the U.S. from these identified threats. The Administration's record is long on discussion and short on action. In his first term President Clinton issued two executive orders which identified that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was increasing at an alarming rate. In that same context, President Clinton called for immediate actions to be taken to ameliorate the WMD threat.

Executive Order 12938, which was signed on November 14, 1994, stated: "I, William J. Clinton President of the United States of America, find that the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and the means of delivering such weapons constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat."

Yet, in 1995 the President vetoed a Defense Authorization Act that would have provided funding for ballistic missile defense. The President defended his veto by proclaiming that a missile defense system as described in the Defense Authorization Act of FY1996 would have been too expensive to build given that the ballistic missile threat would not present a threat to the United States for at least another fifteen years. During that same year, President Clinton informed Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, that the ABM Treaty was the "cornerstone of strategic stability," reaffirming the Administration's support of Mutual Assured Destruction-a policy that considers any U.S. defenses against strategic offensive forces as destabilizing. Ironically, on November 9, 1995, President Clinton issued a Notice of Continuation of Emergency Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. That state of national emergency is still in effect today and the strategic threat environment is only becoming worse.

After being pressured by the Republican members of Congress, the Clinton Administration modified its NMD policy by instituting the "3+3" Plan, which remains in place today. The "3+3" Plan called for the research and development of a NMD architecture over a three year period. Under the guidelines set forth in the "3+3" Plan the Administration would decide whether the threat warranted the deployment of a national missile defense in the year 2000. If the threat existed and the Administration called for NMD deployment, a final NMD system would not be deployed until 2003. However, since the signing of the "3+3" Plan Administration officials have indicated that a fully operational NMD system could not make its way into service until 2005. It is unclear whether the Clinton Administration is committed to sticking with the "3+3"; however, judging by the Administration's track record on NMD, it is highly unlikely that a decision will be made to deploy a NMD before President Clinton leaves office.

The Administration's national missile defense policy has not been responsive to the emerging foreign missile threat. White House officials are trying to convince the American people that so-called "Developing World" countries lack the technological wherewithal and the technical assistance to produce missiles capable of delivering nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons to American soil. The Administration's programs to address the foreign ballistic missile threat underestimate the efforts taken by these nations to acquire the technology and the technical assistance necessary for developing, building, and eventually deploying ballistic missiles.

The lessons to be learned from the U.S. history of ballistic missile advancement are straightforward. The acquisition of key technical experts can move a country rapidly forward in advancing ballistic missile capability. Moreover, the range of existing ballistic missile systems can be rapidly increased, for example by incorporating additional stages.

In the 1940s, designing and fabricating ballistic missiles was challenging, but with focus, determination, and national-level support it was done very rapidly, even though new types of inertial guidance instruments had to be developed, new rocket engines and missile structures fabricated, and new fuels produced. In stark contrast, countries seeking to develop ballistic missiles today do not have to overcome such hurdles. The West's schools and universities are providing students from countries of concern with superior educations in sciences and technologies related to ballistic missile development. While in the 1940s and 50s few individuals and nations understood and could produce ballistic missiles and related technologies, in today's world missile designs are well understood, missile components are available on the world market, and whole missile systems can be bought and delivered. History is replete with numerous examples of transfers of ballistic missile technologies including, Egyptian SCUDs to North Korea, Chinese M-11s to Pakistan, Chinese CSS-2s to Saudi Arabia, Russian engines to India, Russian guidance components to Iraq, and so forth, to name only a handful.

In addition, countries developing ballistic missiles are frequently trading technologies and hardware among themselves and using the synergy of cooperative projects to increase their ballistic missile capabilities. Aside from hardware, the break-up of the Soviet Union and the stagnation of Russia have resulted in the availability of numerous scientists who are available for hire, if the price is right, and who can provide valuable ballistic missile design, development and testing expertise to a sponsoring nation. Since most of today's ballistic missiles are mobile, training and launching by customer nation crews can take place in the missile's country of origin, so that the first launch of a missile from a customer country may occur without any advance warning.

North Korea is one of the smallest, poorest countries on earth and one of the most isolated geopolitically. Yet it is able to maintain a robust and increasingly capable ballistic missile arsenal. Moreover, North Korea is able to export ballistic missiles along with related technologies and expertise to other nations of concern like Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. If North Korea can accomplish this, then surely other nations with more robust technical, financial, and infrastructure capabilities will be able to do so.

Although a number of countries are acquiring long-range ballistic missile capabilities, ballistic missiles do not need to have long ranges to threaten the United States. For example, in the 1950s, the U.S. launched several ballistic missiles from the deck of a ship, and sent them to high altitudes where their nuclear weapon payloads were detonated. Most of the population of the U.S. lives near the East and West coasts, and thus is highly vulnerable to a ship-launched missile that could be covertly deployed in the merchant traffic several hundred miles at sea. The modifications to such a ship would not need to be obvious, if at all, given that a missile Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) or Mobile Erector Launcher (MEL) could be driven into the hold of a sizable cargo ship. Testing of a few missile launches in such a configuration could be performed in remote locations to avoid detection by the U.S. As a result, a nation's limited short-range capability could be rapidly transformed into a mobile, covert long-range capability that the U.S. today has no means for defending against.

In view of the concerns discussed above, there is every reason to believe that the U.S. can be threatened by a ballistic missile attack today, both at home and abroad, by a determined adversary.

NMD: The Time is Now

Given the increase in the number countries obtaining and/or seeking to obtain ballistic missiles of intercontinental range, unless the Administration radically alters its "wait and see" approach it will continue to place the lives of every American at risk from a ballistic missile attack for many years to come. If the United States were to start the procurement process of NMD systems immediately, a fully operational national missile defense system would not be ready for service until at least 2006 or 2007.

I would like for the members of this committee to ask themselves one question: how long do we have to wait until the United States decides that the threat is great enough to warrant the deployment of a national missile defense? Is it logical to wait until hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of Americans die from a ballistic missile attack until we finally decide to deploy a national missile defense? Conventional wisdom tells us that waiting would be extremely illogical and more importantly, unethical. Furthermore, the fundamental basis of the United States Constitution is to preserve and defend the welfare of the American people-The American people must be defended.

The primary purpose of a national missile defense is to discourage countries from developing offensive ballistic missiles and the chemical, biological, or nuclear warheads that make them able to produce masses of casualties. It is essential to recognize that countries are most susceptible to being discouraged from developing offensive missiles before they have made major national commitments to such programs, when they are still considering the alternatives, and when they maximize flexibility in their future course of action. Therefore, the best opportunity for avoiding offensive ballistic missile threats is squarely before the U.S. today-not tomorrow, not next year, not 15 years from now, not in "three plus three" years as the Clinton Administration proposes, but today.

The problem is not to estimate the last possible time when the U.S. could deploy missile defenses. Historically, the U.S. has proven poor at making such intelligence estimates for many reasons. The challenge before the U.S. is to deploy a national missile defense as rapidly as possible to discourage potential proliferators from developing, building, buying, or otherwise obtaining offensive ballistic missiles, as well as to counter the many ballistic missile threats that already exist.

Most one-time skeptics of the need for theater missile defenses became supporters after attacks on the U.S. and our allies caused loss of life in the war with Iraq. There can be little doubt that a ballistic missile attack on the U.S. would produce similar support for national missile defense. The question before the Congress is: must the U.S. wait until it is attacked by the ballistic missiles before it deploys such missile defenses?

NMD Technology Is Ready Today

Contrary to many NMD critics, the U.S. missile defense program has successfully overcome a series of formidable technological and systemic challenges and can provide an effective defense against ballistic missile warheads. Both hardware and software obstacles have been resolved, and miniaturization or sensors, propulsion system, and computer technologies have greatly reduced cost issues. The small size of the anticipated missile threat from the developing world also has significantly facilitated the resolution of technical and operational problems. The principle challenge today is not in the technology, but the national commitment to proceed with effective missile defenses. To mention some of the areas where the advantage is shifted:

  • the capabilities of our new radar systems have improved substantially, both in the transmit-receive function and also in the data processing.
  • Miniaturized spacecraft and spacecraft optical systems have made great progress in the last two decades, as have spacecraft infrared, visible, and ultraviolet sensors.
  • Lasers, based on aircraft and satellite platforms, have made enormous progress, and that progress is being used both in the airborne laser program being pursued by the air force today and in the space-based laser that is being pursued by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.
  • Small rocket propulsion, which is used, among other things, for maneuvering and diverting kinetic interceptors, or rocket-based interceptors, has improved greatly, and we can now build small thrusters with thrust-to-weight ration of over a thousand.
  • Most important, our capability in computing has increased greatly while the size of computers has actually decreased.

In addition to technology arguments, NMD critics contend that U.S. missile defense effort can easily be countered by various countermeasures such as deploying decoys, chaff, etc., this assumption presupposes that U.S. defense technologies will remain stagnate in the face of rising countermeasure capabilities. This is not the case. In truth, as missile defense technologies have improved the advantage has shifted from the offense to the defense. The United States is the world's premier technological power for a reason; for a developing world country to place a wager on whether or not the United States can defend against its emerging countermeasures would be an extremely risky bet.

The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization supports a small group, called the Countermeasure Hands-on Project, which is a third-world like operation populated by intelligent but relatively inexperienced young officers and enlisted men, in which they try to develop these countermeasures and test them to see how hard it is to make them and what can be said about them. Our uniform experience in this is that countermeasures have proven harder to make work well in our efforts to build them, both in the Countermeasures Hands-on Project, but more generally with our ballistic missile force, than we anticipated, and discrimination has proved to be less difficult than we anticipated. We have so much more experience and so much more technical capability in the areas of optical, infrared, and ultraviolet sensors, as well as ground based radars that depending on countermeasures to defeat U.S. ABM capabilities, once deployed, is an extremely risky bet for less developed nations to take.

Our NMD system design, which the U.S. is currently pursuing is, in my view, a step in the right direction, but one with substantial deficiencies that need to be filled out before we have a comprehensive missile defense capability. The limitations on it are primarily driven by the ABM Treaty today. So in summary I would say the technology balance, while it may be an eternal challenge, and one can always invent an offense that will overcome a given defense, and one can always conceive of a defense that will overcome a given offense, the technology balance is moving toward the defense, and the U.S. should be taking full advantage of that.

The ABM Treaty and the New World Disorder

The ABM Treaty the major problem impeding U.S. efforts to build the needed defenses. It masquerades as a solution to national security problems.

Twenty-three years ago, the U.S. and the Soviet Union negotiated an arms control treaty-SALT-with which the U.S. intended to limit the build-up of the Soviet ICBM force. In conjunction with that treaty, the two adversaries also negotiated the ABM Treaty, which was specifically intended to assure the continuing vulnerability of the people of both the U.S. and Soviet Union to ballistic missile attack.

The SALT I Agreement was a failure in limiting the Soviet ICBM force, which was massively enhanced in both number and performance after the SALT I Agreement went into effect. Reductions in the number of Soviet ICBMs did not actually occur until the end of the decade of the 1980s, well after President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative had been put in place.

Even though the ABM Treaty assured the Soviets of the continuing vulnerability of the American people and country, the Soviet Union, unlike the U.S., continued to deploy ballistic missile defenses. These defenses were comprised of both Moscow-area ABM system, which has nuclear-tipped missile interceptors, and widespread deployment of mobile, nuclear-tipped anti-aircraft and antiballistic missile defense systems, such as the SA-5, SA-10, and SA-12, throughout the Soviet Union. Since these systems are armed with nuclear warheads, they do not require sophisticated "hit-to-kill" fire control and guidance technology to defend against ballistic missiles.

In 1983, President Reagan called for an end to U.S. vulnerability to ballistic missile attack, and to that end directed that the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) be pursued. Since that time, the SDI and the subsequent Ballistic Missile Defense program have continually been undermined by the ABM Treaty.

In 1983, President Reagan called for an end to U.S. vulnerability to ballistic missile attack, and to that end directed that the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) be pursued. Since that time, the SDI and the subsequent Ballistic Missile Defense program have continually been undermined by the ABM Treaty.

The ABM Treaty attempted to constrain the ballistic missile defense capabilities of only two parties: The United States and the Soviet Union. (Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Administration has sought to broaden the Treaty's signatories to include several states of the former Soviet Union). Unfortunately, the Treaty leaves the U.S. and its people vulnerable to ballistic missiles fired from anywhere in the world. This includes possible ballistic missile attacks from China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and any other hostile country, as well as from rogue missile commanders, terrorist groups, and accidental launches from any source. The Treaty's guarantee that the U.S. will not defend itself from ballistic missile attack can only act as a strong incentive for hostile countries and groups to develop long-range missiles armed with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

This phenomenon is alarmingly analogous to the efforts by Western nations-and particularly the United States-to limit the development of armaments in the aftermath of World War I. The 1920s disarmament movement resulted only in providing a strong incentive to those nations-such as Germany and Japan-that clearly did not subscribe to disarmament theories to develop the weapons necessary for long-range power projection. Walter Lippman, in his book U.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic, summed up the Allied experiment in self-imposed vulnerability when he observed that the inter-war "disarmament was, as the event has shown, tragically successful in disarming the nations that believed in disarmament. The net effect was…to reduce them to almost disastrous impotence" in the face of overseas threats.

From an ethical point of view, the ABM Treaty is appalling. It is, in fact, an instrument of an experiment that makes the population of the U.S., some 250 million people, hostage to the policies, insanities, and errors of the rest of the world. It places the American people at risk through an experiment in international relations on an unprecedented scale. Since proponents of the Treaty do not describe its effects in this manner, most of the 250 million subjects of this misguided experiment are not aware that they are being used to serve as hostages for the ballistic missiles of other countries. In fact, the majority of U.S. citizens believe that the United States has national missile defenses against ballistic missiles, and are incredulous when they are told otherwise.

For ethical reasons, the nation-wide participants in this experiment must be made aware of the enforced vulnerability that makes them, without their knowledge, the designated victims of the rest of the world. When they are informed of the use being made of them, they will insist on the termination of the ABM Treaty and the acceleration of U.S. national missile defense capabilities. To that purpose, the ABM Treaty should be terminated immediately, either in cooperation with the Russians, or, if not, then unilaterally.

From a legal standpoint, it can be argued that since the Soviet Union is now defunct, the Treaty is no longer valid. In June of 1998 the Hunton & Williams Law Firm conducted a study to find out if the ABM Treaty was still a valid document. According to the Study: "When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the ABM Treaty became impossible to perform in accordance with its original provisions. Because of the unique terms and conditions of the ABM Treaty, and the underlying assumptions of the Parties, none of the states that emerged from the Soviet Union, either alone or with others, could carry out the totality of the Soviet Union's obligation under the ABM Treaty. Consequently, the obligations of the United States under the Treaty were discharged at the time the Soviet Union disappeared."

Before any NMD deployment can take place, either the United States must withdraw from the ABM Treaty or the United States will have to negotiate major amendments to the Treaty with the Russians, who have, to date, shown only hostility to such negotiations. From a personal standpoint, it is my belief that the United States should pursue the former option. By abrogating the ABM Treaty the United States would not be constrained to the deployment of a limited, somewhat less effective, land-based national missile defense. This option would provide the United States with a flexible mission-oriented NMD that could consist of a combination of land-based, sea-based, and space-based NMD systems.

While the United States remains defenseless against a ballistic missile attack, the Russians have well over 100 ground-based interceptors located around the Moscow region and many thousand Surface-to-Air missiles with inherent ABM capabilities located throughout Russia and the former Soviet Union. These ABM systems provide Russia with a substantial territorial defense against a ballistic missile attack. Yet, the Russian government has claimed that even the successful long range ballistic missile interceptor test that the U. S. recently conducted is a violation of the ABM Treaty.

In summary of the United States' negotiating strategy, I would advise that if the Russians are reluctant to amend the ABM Treaty language, or if an amendment to the Treaty does not allow a mission-oriented NMD consisting of land-based, sea-based, or space-based systems, it is in the national security interests to abrogate the 1972 Treaty in accord with the Treaty's provision for such action.

In conclusion, the ballistic missile threat to the United States continues to increase. Unless the United States takes measures to defend against such threats, the lives of every American will continue to be at risk to a ballistic missile attack. The United States has the technological capacity to construct and deploy a NMD system that is capable of overcoming any developing world ballistic missile forces, including countermeasures, now, and in the foreseeable future. I urge the Administration to get beyond assessing the threat-the threat is clear and present. The Administration should make the commitment now to deploy a national missile defense in the immediate future.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.