“If these tests were planned to fool U.S. defenses, as a real enemy would do, the failure rate would be even worse,” said Philip E. Coyle III in an email exchange with The Santa Barbara Independent last week.
Coyle is a former director of operational testing for the U.S. Department of Defense and a steady critic of GMD. He noted that the system’s performance rate had actually gotten worse over time since it was first tested in 1999. But he also acknowledged the overwhelming challenge of the mission itself. “Missile defense is the most difficult technical problem the Pentagon has ever faced,” he said. The Department of Defense has been trying to develop missile defenses ever since WWII when Nazi Germany launched missiles at London and Belgium. We’ve been trying to solve this problem for roughly 70 years.”
Coyle nevertheless questioned the wisdom of throwing more time, effort, and taxpayer money at the problem, especially if the U.S. continues to put missile defense before diplomacy. “In response, America’s adversaries are likely to build more and more long-range missiles so as to overwhelm U.S. strategic defenses,” he said. “Exactly the opposite of what we would want.” Given the low reliability of our fleet, U.S. generals have articulated a “shot doctrine” of four interceptors for every one incoming warhead.
In a telephone press conference hosted last week by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, John Tierney, former chair of the House subcommittee overseeing the missile defense program, said he expected the Pentagon to claim this Tuesday’s test a success, regardless of the actual outcome. During previous GMD hearings on Capitol Hill, he said, he witnessed “a lot of obfuscation, understatement, and overstatement” by military brass on the subject.