In early May, Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason warned the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence of the problems plaguing the American missile defence system known as Ground-based Midcourse Defence, or GMD.
Additional information has recently come to light, underscoring yet again how the Missile Defence Agency continues to mislead Congress and the general public about the serious technical deficiencies with GMD. The latest test fiasco is detailed in an article by David Willman in the Los Angeles Times and concerns one of the key steering components of the GMD system called a “divert thruster”.
Philip R. Coyle III, a former director of operational testing for the Defense Department, said any malfunction involving the thrusters should prompt serious concern.
Despite glowing claims of success by the MDA, lead contractors, and Raytheon, the company that assembles the interceptors, the test conducted on January 28th at a cost of $250 million was in fact a complete failure, according to information supplied by Pentagon scientists to the LA Times.
The numerous problems with GMD date back to George W. Bush’s call for a domestic missile defence system to be put in place within two years. In order to adhere to this timeline, the agency was exempted from standard rules regarding procurement and testing. The result has been that, even in carefully scripted tests, the system has failed to intercept and destroy mock warheads at least fifty percent of the time.
In another of their long list of reports about technical flaws in the system, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office criticised agency officials for rushing the engineering work on the new thrusters and “omitting steps in the design process.”
In three separate appearances before members of Congress this past spring, Vice Admiral Syring, the director of the Missile Defence Agency, made no mention of technical issues with any aspect of the test. On April 13th, he even told a Senate defense appropriations subcommittee that the flight test “enhanced” the agency’s confidence in the GMD system.
In summation, it appears that Missile Defence Agency officials and contractors can lie with impunity about the manifold and ongoing failures of a system which, to date, has cost American taxpayers $40 billion.
Incredibly, the Liberal government has reopened the dormant issue of Canadian participation in the U.S. missile defence system as part of its Defence Policy Review. Says Peggy Mason:
Canadians must say a resounding “no” to this costly, destabilizing, and technologically flawed missile defence chimera.
For an earlier LA Times article on the long history of technical failures with GMD, see: $40-billion missile defense system proves unreliable (15 June 2014).
Photo credit: Raytheon