Single-Site Missile Defense Leaves Alaska, Hawaii Naked

By Gertz, Bill | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 9, 1997 | Go to article overview

Single-Site Missile Defense Leaves Alaska, Hawaii Naked


Gertz, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


A national missile defense built at a single site as required by an international arms treaty will not totally protect Hawaii and Alaska from long-range missile attack, according to Pentagon documents.

According to documents from the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, a single missile defense system based at Grand Forks, N.D., will meet "most threats" but is "not optimal against threats to Alaska and Hawaii."

Currently, the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty limits deployment of strategic missile defenses to one site, either to protect a strategic missile field or the nation's capital. Russia has deployed its ABM system around Moscow; the United States has no system.

The treaty also bars missile defenses designed to defend entire countries.

The BMDO documents used to brief Defense Secretary William S. Cohen last month as part of a major strategy review indicate a second deployment site would add about $4.5 billion to the life-cycle cost of a national missile-defense system. The life cycle is normally estimated to be about 20 years.

A second site, however, "allows for complete coverage of U.S. territory against more threats," the documents state.

Additionally, the BMDO stated that a second site "may be required to meet user requirements" of protecting all 50 states.

Costs and capabilities of the system to knock out a small number of long-range missiles have yet to be determined in detail because the actual system must still be defined, according to the documents.

A second deployment site would require amending the ABM treaty, expected to be a difficult process as a result of Clinton administration efforts to expand signatories of the pact to include the former nuclear states of the Soviet Union: Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. An agreement on the issue has been drawn up as a result of U.S.-Russian negotiations in Geneva.

Critics say Russia could block U.S. missile defense deployment by preventing treaty changes through the added signatories.

Excluding missile defense coverage of Alaska and Hawaii would leave these areas vulnerable to a key emerging threat: attack by Chinese strategic missiles or North Korean Taepo Dong missiles that, if deployed, would be able to strike parts of both states. …

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