Letter to P.M. Martin from the Union of Concerned Scientists

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Hon. Paul Martin,

Prime Minister of Canada.

Dear Prime Minister:

We are writing to call your attention to serious technical problems with the missile defense system the United States is currently building, as well as dangers associated with pursuit of this and future missile defense systems.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has conducted technical analyses of the U.S. missile defense program for over a decade. Our analysis clearly shows that the system currently being fielded will not provide protection against long-range ballistic missile attacks. However, the system will have a significant capability to attack satellites in low-Earth orbit and may spur the development of anti-satellite missiles by other countries. Moreover, desires for space-based missile defenses increase the motivation for the U.S. development of space weapons. If the United States continues to pursue robust ground and space-based missile defenses, this will have negative impacts on international relations and undermine cooperative approaches to security.

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system the United States is currently fielding remains in early stages of development. As our Technical Realities Report shows, the testing program for this missile defense system remains in its infancy. Tests thus far have been highly controlled. Moreover, the system being fielded is vulnerable to very simple countermeasures. As a consequence, there is no technical justification for deployment of the system: it has no demonstrated capability and will be ineffective against a real attack by longrange ballistic missiles.

The Bush administration has no plans to carry out adequate testing of the system, and technical analysis shows that even future expanded versions of the system would be vulnerable to enemy countermeasures and therefore unable to provide a real defense.

While the GMD system will not provide protection against missile attacks, its deployment will nonetheless have serious negative impacts on international security.

First, the system will have a much greater capability to attack satellites in low-Earth orbits than to intercept missiles. Unlike ballistic missiles, satellites travel on predictable orbits and the attacker can choose the time of the attack. This inherent anti-satellite capability is certain to be recognized by other countries and lead to justifiable concerns on their part.

Second, the U.S. pursuit of these capabilities raises concerns in China, which sees itself as a possible target of both missile defenses and antisatellite weapons. While China has adopted a wait-and-see policy toward these developments, they sow distrust and undermine international cooperation, while providing incentives for China to expand its nuclear missile force and develop its own anti-satellite capability.

Third, the missile defense program is contributing to the cooling of U. …