Adam Rawnsley caught propagandizing negatively about missile defense


While searching for information about the Airborne Laser Program in Google, I found this screed in the discredited Danger Room blog by Adam Rawnsley. It complains about the entire US missile defense program and its cost to date.

Rawnsley complains that missile defense has cost, to date, $150 bn (a figure from the Bloomberg magazine), the same as the Apollo program (the moon program). To hear him tell it, the missile defense has been an utter, unjustifiable waste of money – $150 bn blown away and wasted with nothing to show for it. Here’s a part of what he wrote:

“America’s budget woes may have the Obama administration eyeing $400 billion in cuts to the defense budget. But, for now at least, there’s one program that appears relatively safe: the star-crossed missile defense effort.

Congress plans on increasing missile defense spending 1.2 per cent to $8.6 billion for fiscal year 2012.  Bloomberg Government tallied the increase up along with 27 years worth of  missile defense spending and found the price tag to be roughly $150 billion. That’s roughly the same amount spent on the Apollo space program. The  man-on-the-moon level spending comes despite technical challenges and other setbacks faced by missile defense programs over the years.

Smith and Ratnam point to an additional $1.16 billion needed for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program at Fort Greely, Alaksa as an example of such problems. The idea behind GMD is to knock out a ballistic missile headed to the U.S. using interceptor missiles. As Bloomberg notes, it has failed 7 out of 15 tests.

Leaky pipes, toxic mold and “significant infrastructure reliability issues” now plague one of Greely’s missile fields, according to the most recent defense budget bill passed by Congress. The mold has forced some workers to don hazardous materials suits. As a result, the Missile Defense Agency needs the $1.16 billion in part to build a new missile field.”

His entire screed is a litany of lies. Here are the facts.

The $150 bn figure is the total cost of missile defense programs over the last 28 fiscal years (from FY1984 to FY2011). That’s a long period of time, longer than I’ve been alive. The $150 bn figure was spread over these 28 fiscal years, not spent in a few years. Assessed properly, on an annual basis, it amounts to ca. $5.35 bn per year, a small figure.

Missile defense programs have NOT been safe. Not during the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Dubya eras, and not with Obama as President. In April 2009 Secretary Gates killed a number of missile defense programs, including the MKV and KEI programs, cancelled the deployment of additional 14 GBIs to Alaska, and cut the Airborne Laser program, reducing it to a mere R&D program – a testbed for possible future laserplanes. Later that same year, President Obama capitulated to Russia by cancelling plans to deploy missile defense systems in Europe. Earlier this year, before leaving office, Secretary Gates tried to kill the MEADS program, risking a deterioration of relations with MEADS program partners Germany and Italy.

The claim that missile defense programs have been safe is a blatant lie.

Rawnsley decries the mold, leaks, and other problems plaguing the 30 interceptor siloes at Alaska, but the additional $1.16 bn proposed for the GBI program is intended to fix these problems. Cutting or closing the GBI program is NOT the solution. The only solution is to fix it, and that’s what the Congress has proposed to do.

Rawnsley bemoans the fact that the GBI program has failed 7 of its 15 tests staged so far, but fails to mention that it has passed 8 of them, i.e. the majority. To prove that GBIs work, new tests should, and probably will, be conducted.

Similarly, Rawnsley decries the $4 bn spent on the Airborne Laser program (over several years, not over one fiscal year), while failing to mention the fact that it has passed 3 of the 5 tests it has undergone. This program is currently America’s only Boost Phase interception program

Rawnsley, as stated, falsely presented the missile defense program as if it was one huge waste of money, with no benefits whatsoever. That is not true. American taxpayers have received a lot for this $150 bn investment:

  • 30 ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California, which are protecting America from the Pacific direction from IRBMs and ICBMs, including those of North Korea and China;
  • two operational THAAD batteries protecting Texas and Hawaii (Hawaii from North Korean and Chinese missiles); THAAD has NEVER failed an operational test;
  • a laser-plane test plane that has passed 3 out of 5 (i.e. 60%) of its tests;
  • hundreds of PATRIOT batteries that have served during both Gulf Wars;
  • radars in Britain, Massachusetts, Alaska, and the Pacific;
  • dozens of BMD-capable warships armed with SM-2 and SM-3 interceptors, which are regarded the best, most reliable, most proven missile defense interceptors, and those warships’ all-aspect, all-directions Aegis radars. These BMD-capable warships can be moved around the world whenever and wherever the DOD decides to do so.

The $150 bn spent on missile defense was a good investment. It was worth every penny.

By comparison, each of the three entitlement programs alone costs much more than $150 bn over 28 FYs. The SS program costs $730 bn per year; the Medicare program $452 bn per year; the Medicaid program $290 bn per year. The annual budget of the Department of Agriculture is $130 bn – almost the same as the cost of missile defense over 28 fiscal years! The annual budget of the Department of Education is $122 bn.

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