Star Wars Unbound

Article excerpt

The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency is on the verge of getting a sweetheart deal that is beyond the wildest dreams of even the craftiest Enron executive. If Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has his way, the new agency will be free to pursue the Bush Administration's Star Wars fantasy without the scrutiny of independent accountants, auditors or technical experts. As Bradley Graham of the Washington Post reported in mid-February, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has decided to exempt missile defense development from normal reporting procedures on costs and schedules, as well as from the need to relate the performance requirements being sought in the new system to specific projected threats. Just for good measure, key tests will be conducted without oversight by the Pentagon's independent testing office. Lisbeth Gronlund of the Union of Concerned Scientists sums up the Pentagon's new approach: "Rather than first spell out what's needed, it sounds like they're just going to create something and then say, 'This is what we need.' In effect, they're saying 'Whatever you've got, we'll take.'"

This all must come as a great relief to the big four missile defense contractors, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and TRW. Given the history of fraud, cost overruns and rigged testing that has characterized the program to date, the last thing they want is independent scrutiny. Two recent reports by the General Accounting Office have confirmed that Boeing and TRW manipulated data from a 1997 test in order to overstate the capabilities of antimissile sensor technology designed to tell the difference between nuclear warheads and decoys. The reports reinforce longstanding allegations of fraud in the testing program. …