By Carter Salis, Project on Government Oversight
Don’t throw good money after bad. It seems like common sense, but a recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reveals that common sense is not necessarily common at the Department of Defense (DoD). After 15 years and $40 billion in taxpayer dollars, the DoD’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has come nowhere near producing a reliable missile defense system.
The development of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) missile system began in 2002 with an initial goal of operational capability by late 2004. Today, the GMD system has a pitiful test record and no demonstrated ability to stop an incoming missile under real-world circumstances.
Ideally, the GMD would destroy an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) before it could reach the mainland United States. The basic concept behind anti-ballistic missile technology is that radar monitors would detect a missile launched from a threat nation, and a missile interceptor would launch from the United States and detonate that missile before it re-enters the atmosphere. The GMD system would present a relatively comprehensive missile defense plan, except for the fact that there is no consistent evidence to suggest that the system actually works.
UCS explains that the MDA is exempt from standard acquisition rule DOD5000 and from reporting obligations required for other major defense programs. By circumventing all appropriate oversight channels, the Pentagon has permitted the GMD system to advance without an estimated total budget.
Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and, citing the need to protect against rogue nations such as North Korea, expedited the GMD project. The Pentagon substituted the “fly before you buy” acquisition protocol for a highly concurrent schedule, during which technology development, product development, and actual production occurred simultaneously. In January 2002, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld allowed the MDA to develop its own requirements, to evaluate its own performance against these requirements, and to consolidate, establish, and cancel programs at will without external oversight. As the UCS report details, “This exemption allowed …