| UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE
August 9, 2000
Undersecretary of Defense Jacques Gansler, who is responsible for the Pentagon's acquisitions, discusses the feasibility of the missile defense program in this extended interview.
NEWSHOUR: Let's start with the basic question, and from where you sit, is the National Missile Defense Program technologically feasible?
DR. GANSLER: I think we have demonstrated the key elements of the technology where we had a successful intercept. We have had successful tests of the X-BAND radar. In fact, this last failure was a very successful test of the X-BAND radar. It was able to do some of the discrimination and some of the tracking of multiple objects; in fact, 12 of them in this case. And we have tested most of the other links in the system.
If I were in a position of having to commit this to a full production at this point, I would say absolutely we are not ready. We have only had in effect three flights, but on the other hand, the technical design of the system has been effectively, I think, demonstrated, and that was an independent group, also, under John Welch with a bunch of very highly regarded scientists--have also concurred that the basic design is technically feasible.
NEWSHOUR: So what--which way are you leaning or have you made your mind up what you are going to recommend?
DR. GANSLER: Fortunately, I haven't had to do that yet. So I am gathering other information. There is threat information we have to gather; in other words, how critical is the 2005 time period. If you could wait longer, you'd make your decision after more flights. If you feel that you have to make the 2005 decision, then the gating item there is actually building--starting the construction of a site in Shemya. So that is the decision that has to be made at this point, and, of course, that will start construction next spring. And that means you have to work backwards from some point at which you start to break the treaty, come back 6 months from that point. And that's the gating item. It's the construction of the site sometime in 2001 and '2.
NEWSHOUR: But there obviously are other criteria that you and the President and the Secretary will be looking at, but as far as the technological aspect goes, are you saying that as far as you are concerned at this point, if that were the only determining factor--and it's not--it would be all systems go?
DR. GANSLER: No. I don't think that's even fair. I would feel more comfortable in that there is still uncertainty in the technology that I'd feel much more comfortable if I had more flights under my belt to be able to make that a firm statement.
I mean, having one success and one test is not sufficient to have very high confidence in that decision, and that's why I'm hedging, admittedly hedging, as to how we will come down at the end of this month's evaluation. We want to look at the rest of the results of this last flight and see how the radar worked and how the missile worked, how the rest of the system worked, command and control system, and we will evaluate other factors inherent in the design, for example, how much can it grow in terms of the discrimination capability because you don't want to be limited to just the current threats. You want to be able to grow the system. So we will evaluate that, and it is part of the evaluation that we will be doing is the growth potential for other discrimination, more sophisticated threats in the future as it evolves.
NEWSHOUR: How serious is the problem that Dr. Postol and others have raised concerning the discrimination problem?
DR. GANSLER: Well, that is the barrier to mid-course intercepts. In other words, if you could intercept in the boost phase, there are other problems associated with intercept in the boost phase, but at least there, you know that all you have is a single target.
If you wait until the final terminal phase, again, it gets easier because the atmosphere does discrimination for you. The disadvantage of the mid-course phase is the fact that you have to do discrimination among objects that are floating in space that, therefore, are harder to discrimination among.
There are distinct advantages of the mid-course phase. You have 20 minutes to do it. You can make your decisions. You can have multiple shots. If you can't discriminate, you can shoot them all down, et cetera.
Now, our challenge is to figure out ways to do the discrimination so you only have to shoot one or two objects in a cloud of multiple objects. We do that with a combination of infrared systems and radar systems, and we think that there are enough different characteristics that we can combine to be able to do an excellent job of discrimination. And again, independent groups have assessed that we can do that.
NEWSHOUR: Have you done it?
DR. GANSLER: Yes. In fact, as I said, this flight that was just a failure, the radar, did quite a bit. The radar interestingly was the thing that told us that the balloon on the target that had been launched hadn't expanded. The radar said that there was a failure in the balloon during the shot.
The radar also told us that there were more objects than we thought there would be. The shot was supposed to only have three objects, just the reentry vehicle, the balloon, and the last stage of the rocket that was launching it.
Instead, the radar told us, oh, there are 12 objects out there. There were still some tank fragments and other things that are out there. So we have done a good deal of that discrimination. We have also done a couple of earlier flights that did the infrared to try to make some measurements on discrimination.
We are continuing to develop that. Mostly, that's in the software area. That's not hardware differences from the current system that's evolving the software, and we have got independent people looking at, A, can it be done and, B, trying to actually develop the software to do it.
NEWSHOUR: What about the accusation that you have dumbed down the tests in order to meet the goal and that the first test--as you know, Dr. Postol has used the word "fraud" to describe that.
DR. GANSLER: The first test, the intercept test, it was interesting in that what the interceptor did was actually to pick up the balloon first and then say that is a balloon, that is not a reentry vehicle, and shift off of the balloon onto the reentry vehicle. So, in a sense, it was already doing some discrimination.
When people have said that we dummied down the test, the objective of the first two flights was to--which were not intercept flights. These were fly-by flights. These were intended to gather a lot of information on discrimination and infrared. So we used a lot of decoys on purpose so we could gather a lot of information.
Then the first intercept flight, we said, look, the objective of that flight is actually to do intercept, and we want to make sure we can do that. That's the key element first, before you start getting worrying about discrimination. We could have even done it maybe without any decoys, but we said okay, we'll have one balloon and we'll have the tank fragment there, but the primary objective of that flight was the intercept. So we tried to make it a simpler one.
Now we'll add complexity as it evolves, and we'll continue to test the rest of the system, but that is the way all systems are done. It's the way they are always tested. You don't start out with the most complex thing. That doesn't make any sense because you can't figure out which is the part that you're falling on. You want to be able to at least isolate the various stages in your test.
NEWSHOUR: Do you have to redo tests? Should tests be redone, the ones that have failed?
DR. GANSLER: The ones that--what you would like to do is have each test be a little harder, but incorporate some of the things from the prior test.
DR. GANSLER: Now, there is a question, for example, do we try to repeat the one that just failed or will the next one be a little more complicated, and that's the kind of thing we are evaluating now.
We will continue to change the test program as a function of what we find from the earlier flights. We will make it more and more difficult as we go along, assuming that we are successful on some of the earlier flights.
NEWSHOUR: Philip Coyle, as you know, has also raised some serious objectives and questions about the testing regime, questioned the number and the scope of the tests, for example, whether or not you've explained that you haven't tested the whole system, the boost phase rocket hasn't been tested--it isn't even up and running yet--and suggesting that a lot more work has to be done before a deployment decision is made.
How much weight will you give Mr. Coyle's recommendations?
DR. GANSLER: Oh, a great deal. His recommendations are important to us, and, by the way, we agree. We want to have many more flights. We want them to be more complex, and in fact, we will do that.
The actual decision to build the missiles which is the critical decision gets made in 2003, not now. The decision that we are making now is whether or not we build the site on the Shemya for building a radar later on. The radar decision gets made in 2001, and the missile commitment decision for the deployment of missiles in 2005, that gets made in 2003.
Between now and the time to which we committed to the radar building in 2001, we have another three flights scheduled. Then there is another five flights scheduled before the 2003 commitment. Then three is another eight flights before the 2005. So you have a whole series of flights with the added complexity, and what Mr. Coyle's point is, is that if you are normally going to commit to buying missiles, you'd want a lot more tests, and we totally agree. That is why that commitment doesn't get made until 2003, and we will have lots more tests before then.
Now, there are still some other test questions which he has raised which is, is the range long enough in order to be able to demonstrate the full capability of the system. There, we are limited by range safety and the sites themselves out in the Pacific, and we are trying to look at whether there are some things we could do about that in order to be able to expand the range and take other conditions, but we are really limited.
I mean, you can't do the realistic test because we do not want a missile flying in San Francisco to see if we can hit it. So we are constrained by the kinds of ranges that we can fly on.
NEWSHOUR: I am sure San Francisco residents are reassured by that.
Let's talk about the nature of the threat and the extent to which that is driving the time table. Could you explain the nature of the threat that you see and relate that to the time table?
DR. GANSLER: Well, the consideration here is a few relatively unsophisticated missiles being launched from, first, North Korea, later Iran, countries of that sort, that it is not aimed at China, it is not aimed at Russia. It is aimed at sort of the third-country conditions, used to be called "rogues," as you know, now "countries of concern," that have the potential to threaten us with these weapons to keep us out of regional conflicts, the first primary objective.
Secondarily, it is also to prevent them from in fact if they choose to exercise that threat from trying to kill the population in the United States, and so, in terms of numbers, it is small numbers. It is, you know, a few to tens later on, later on beyond 2005, but up to the 2005 time period, it is probably less than 10 of them, but capable of reaching the United States.
NEWSHOUR: Why is that a magic number--magic year, 2005?
DR. GANSLER: Well, this came out of the Rumsfeld Commission report, and obviously, there is classified information in terms of national intelligence estimates and so forth that lead us to believe that Korea could have that capability by that time period, you know. I am not going to say on Thursday, you can't do it with great precision, but you can say based upon the evolution of the threat as we have seen it, that the 2005 time period is quite realistic.
NEWSHOUR: So you want to be ready by 2005, and, therefore, you have to start construction.
DR. GANSLER: The interesting thing is you would think, well, the problem may be when do you start building missiles, and as I said, you don't have to start building missiles in 2003.
It is crazy that Shemya has such terrible weather conditions, and yet, it is so perfectly located to be able to track early on these missiles that you want to put the radar out on that island, but the wind conditions there are normally 30 miles an hour or more, up to over 100 miles an hour in the--you know, as you know, in the winter, it snows. In the summer, it is foggy. You can't bring in barges into the island. It is a really difficult thing, only a few days you can do construction. Once you get it up, you're okay. The problem is trying to build the radar during that time period, do construction during that time period.
NEWSHOUR: And it will take 4 years?
DR. GANSLER: Yeah. And then, of course, you want to evaluate it and test it to make sure it works. So the last year of that 5-year period--4-year period--5 years, if you count the design phase which is what we would be initiating this year and then the construction starting next spring and then the final evaluation. That total time period is from now until 2005.
NEWSHOUR: Let me come back, if I may, to the nature of the threat. Since the Rumsfeld Commission report was issued, there has been some sort of rapprochement between North and South Korea. North Korea has declared a moratorium on missile testing. How realistic do you think the chances are that North Korea will, A, have the capability to launch a missile by 2005 and, B, will probably want to launch a missile by 2005? How realistic is the likelihood that they will launch a missile?
DR. GANSLER: The problem is while the probability of that in combination may be decent that we may be able to have a unification, that we may be able to prevent them from threatening us or using these, if the probability is at all reasonable that the other way, that it will take a long time or may never happen for unification, that they may actually have a threat to us, the chances of that happening and destroying large American populations is not zero, and if it is significant at all, then it is our responsibility to be concerned about that.
NEWSHOUR: Could you lay out the scenario under which North Korea would shoot a missile at the United States?
DR. GANSLER: Well, I would start out by not wanting to pick any one country for this overall concept.
The concept here is that a country, a regional power, chooses, for one reason or another--gets involved in a conflict, but chooses to try to keep the United States out of that conflict by saying, "If you come in, we will threaten your cities," and if we have no means of preventing that, then that threat is a credible threat. If we have a means of preventing it, we can deter that threat.
Now, will they in fact then choose to launch and be destroyed because we can retaliate obviously and destroy the whole country? A, will they think we will do that, and, B, will they in fact launch? I do not know the answers to those questions.
I can tell you that some of the behavior of some of the leaders in some of these countries doesn't follow the same rationale that we do, the logic of behavior, and especially when pressed, when up against the wall and threatened may behave in sort of a rational fashion. That is what is of concern to us. If we cannot control it--we would like to be more able to control it.
NEWSHOUR: So conventional deterrence--
DR. GANSLER: Conventional deterrence is the question that we are not so comfortable with in these environments, with what might be less rational actors.
NEWSHOUR: Then, if these less rational actors, as you put it, do present a clear danger or potential danger to the United States, why not build a much more robust system along the lines that Governor Bush is suggesting, abrogate the ABM Treaty completely and go all out, rather than the limited system that you are talking about?
DR. GANSLER: The thing you want to recognize is that we have gained a great deal of stability from the ABM Treaty over time, relative to Russia and hopefully relative to China, and what we are trying to do with this defense system in the near term is to address these likely, but lower level threats, the small country threats with a few missiles that could threaten three of four cities in the United States that is not at all aimed at the Russian threat and what the arms control agreements have been aimed at.
The deterrent posture with Russia, we cannot do anything about the Russian threat when they have thousands of missiles with our having 20 defense systems. That is not what it is aimed at, at all. That has successfully worked, as you know, for 40 years. We have not even had an inadvertent launch. I mean, hopefully, we won't. So the system is basically a relatively stable one with Russia and the United States having these thousands of missiles.
The issue that we are trying to address is not this mutual assured destruction in the large scale with Russia and the United States, but it is the rogue, so called, countries of concern that might use one or two missiles as, A, a threat and, B, actually launch out of desperation.
NEWSHOUR: Yet, the objections now are coming from all quarters, not only to countries of concern, but the Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese are piling on with objections to this plan suggesting that this is going to spur another arms race. What is your reaction to that?
DR. GANSLER: Well, it is hard to imagine that it will, actually, but this is just a personal opinion. I have to admit, this is not a policy position.
Russia can't really afford it, and China is going ahead, whether we do or don't, it appears. So, in terms of the arms race, it isn't as obvious to me that this will cause an arms race.
I think there is a valid concern among both Russia, China, and even our European allies which is of great concern to us as to whether this might upset some of the balance that exists in terms of deterrence, and we have to be very concerned about that. I think it is important, particularly for some of our allies who have a smaller capability in terms of the nuclear deterrents. That is of real concern to make sure that this is not disturbed. We don't think it would be.
NEWSHOUR: What would be the international consequences, global political consequences, of going ahead with the system in the face of such wide-ranging objection from the Russians, from the Chinese, and also importantly from the European allies?
DR. GANSLER: Okay. I think in answering your question, it is important to recognize that there is a growing recognition of the threat, as we have hypothesized it and as it is growing in fact, due to proliferation, worldwide proliferation of arms, you know, whether it is being sold by North Korea or sold by China or whatever; that when the President went to Russia, that Putin acknowledged that Russia is concerned about this threat.
When I talked to the leaders of various countries in Europe, they are growing increasingly saying this is a valid threat, we do need to do something about it, and so, to sort of ignore that and say, well, we either, A, can't afford it or, B, we are not going to deal with it is not an acceptable answer. I think we do have to start to deal with this threat in one way or another.
NEWSHOUR: But it is not on all our thing. I mean, the leaders are telling you who acknowledged the threat, therefore, the only solution is the National Missile Defense Program. They are proposing other ways to deal with this thing.
DR. GANSLER: The other approaches to trying to deal with that threat--I mean, they range the full spectrum from saying ignore it to assume that the deterrence, mutual sheer destruction works, to other approaches. Russians have proposed, you know, a boost-phase system on their territory with a new missile that they are going to be--they say they have on paper in mathematical equations. That is a possibility. They also said that it won't break the treaty, and I am not sure I understand how that is possible and still shoot down an ICBM. So we have a lot of discussions that we have to have with the Russians to better understand their system and to see how we might be able to take advantage of it.
There have been other proposals for other forms of boost phase, ship-based, ground-based in Russia. There have been proposals for space-based, the original SDI which is very different than what we are talking about now. That is certainly way out into the future, but the other programs for other forms of, say, boost-phase intercept are worth investigating.
Right now, they look like they would be later in time and also be more of a complement to our systems than a supplement for it.
NEWSHOUR: With all these issues and with letters from the former Joint Chiefs from--the suggestion from the Congressional Budget Office of delaying this, do these objections from foreign nations and domestically point in your mind to the proposition that the United States might be better off, if not abandoning, certainly delaying this?
DR. GANSLER: Well, this is certainly a decision that, first, the Secretary of Defense and then the President have to make. It is not my decision.
I think that we are getting lots of suggestions from people who have a priori decisions here in terms of they have decide what the right answer is, and so they are going to make their case.
We have tried to offer, in fact, briefings on the threat, intelligence briefings, our ability to discriminate and things of that sort to people, both classified and unclassified briefings. They have, by and large, not chosen to want to hear those briefings. They prefer to have stated their position without them.
I think it is important for us to listen to all concerns, and then I think the Secretary and the President just have to make their decision based upon what is their perspective relative to what is needed in this Nation.
NEWSHOUR: Are you saying in effect there is also lots of stuff that we know that we can't tell you about that is driving the time table?
DR. GANSLER: I hate to say it that way because it makes it sound like we are trying to hide something. The reality is if I were to tell you which top objects we can and cannot discriminate against, how we do it, what are the mathematical equations we use, what are the radar and infrared techniques we use--
NEWSHOUR: And the nature of the threat.
DR. GANSLER: --you know, and what threat we have assumed, if I told you all of that information, then obviously anybody could then design something that would be the one thing that we hadn't addressed or that doesn't fit or that we couldn't discriminate, and so that is the reason all that information is very highly classified.
Now, it makes sense to classify it, but then it makes it easy for somebody to say, "Ah, see, you won't tell us. You are hiding it." But we are very happy to tell anybody, Congress, any technical scientists, whoever, all of the information as long as they have the clearances.
NEWSHOUR: One thing you are not hiding, at least I don't think you are, is the cost.
DR. GANSLER: Correct.
NEWSHOUR: What is the cost, and can the United States afford it?
DR. GANSLER: Well, there is obviously people throwing in numbers--
DR. GANSLER: --all over the place. Some people are saying all the money that was spent on the space-based SDI system should count against this one. That is sort of like saying all the money since the Wright Brothers should count against the Joint Strike Fighter. To me, they are different.
I do think it is fair to count how much money has been spent to date since this system was--the present system was designed, which is 1991, and we have looked at that. It is around $5.5 billion or so, and there is another $14 billion to be spent. So we are talking around $20 billion for this program, another 14 or so still to be spent in this time, to deploy the 100 interceptors that we are talking about for this basic system.
Now, if that system is continued on into the future, continues to evolve or you add sea-based or you add space-based, then the cost would obviously grow, as with any system as it becomes more complicated, but the current system designed against the current threat in the time period between now and 2007, which is when you will have the full complement of the interceptors deployed, it is in the range of the 20-billion numbers.
NEWSHOUR: So you reject the 60 billion or the $50-billion figures?
DR. GANSLER: You can pick any number by any assumption you want to make. The $60-billion number that has been thrown around, I think, by some people simply says if you keep the system for 30 years, then obviously you are going to have to spend a lot more money. Then it depends on what assumptions you make for how much more you add to it, whether you start charging for ships that are floating around or not.
You can pick a number and you can match it to any hypothesis. The one that is in the budget, that is the one that we are going to be deploying, is the one that is going to go to the 2007 time period with 100 interceptors, and that is the number I am quoting, the 20 billion.
NEWSHOUR: Given--using the $20-billion figure, can the U.S. afford it? Can the Department of Defense afford it, and what, if anything, might you have to give up in order to be able to buy this?
DR. GANSLER: Well, at the time when Secretary Cohen came in, there was an evaluation made of the overall priorities of the different programs. It was decided that this particular area was one that we needed to step up to in terms of defense. So there is an allocation across all of the programs.
As you know, we spend about $300 billion a year. Of that, we spend about $40 billion on R&D and about 60 on research and development and about 60 billion on procurement. So we have around $100 billion to spend for research and development and procurement. Out of the $100 billion a year, if we spend that over the 7-year period, that is 700 billion. Can we afford 20 billion out of that? You know, I think it is an affordable number. It is a big number, though. So you obviously are going to give up some things in order to provide a national defense system.
NEWSHOUR: Should this system--it has been called, and it is, a limited system, should it grow?
DR. GANSLER: I think as the threat grows, it should grow. If a threat doesn't grow, it shouldn't grow.
NEWSHOUR: But obviously, you have to be ahead of the threat.
DR. GANSLER: You have to stay ahead of what the threat might be. You don't have to stay ahead of what somebody theoretically can sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and design. You don't want to be behind the deployed threat. You want to be ahead of the deployed threat, but you don't want to design it so that it is so complicated because everybody could hypothesize different kinds of threats, and if you are going to try to face all of that, then it becomes incredibly expensive and complex. In other words, you are going to have a lot more radars, a lot more interceptors, a lot more sensors in a variety of shapes and sizes, and then it does become very complex and sophisticated.
You may get to that point in 20 or 30 years. It depends on how the threat evolves, but that is not what we are doing.
NEWSHOUR: Coming back, then, I want to make sure I understand to the question about the technology and is it technologically feasible. Obviously, that is where a lot of the debate, the technical debate is going. There is no question in your mind that you have proven, or do you need to prove, that the discrimination is possible, that you have that capability?
DR. GANSLER: What we have done is to convince ourselves that the system, as designed now, has the inherent capability in it to be able to do the discrimination that we are required to do against the threats we anticipate seeing.
Now, that has obviously some conditions in that sentence that I just said because one could hypothesize other threats, and we may or may not be able to address those. That is where we get into the classified information and stuff, but, also, we may or may not want to choose to spend the money to build that software into the system because of its cost. So we want to try to match the complexity of our system and the cost of our system to the likely threats that we are going to be seeing, and we want to stretch it a little bit to make sure we have got sufficient coverage.
So we do believe that with the current design that we are capable of handling the discrimination requirements of this system, and as I said earlier, that has been assessed by an independent group as well of both scientists and former military people that their feeling is that there is the inherent capability in that system to be able to grow to the discrimination requirements in the future.
All of that is not now being built right into the system. The software initially will handle the threats we think we are going to see in terms of discrimination. As the discrimination problem becomes more complex, we will add more complexity into the software, and maybe even some additional sensors.
We have an additional space-based infrared sensor planned in the out-years. You probably are aware of that one, and if necessary, we could add more radars for discrimination, but as that--we would do that as the threat tends to grow, but if the design--what is important from a technological perspective is if the inherent design doesn't get limited if you add three more balloons and the system falls apart. That is what you cannot afford to do.
NEWSHOUR: But also, to build out the system, you have to renegotiate, if you can, the ABM Treaty, correct?
DR. GANSLER: I think the treaty part will have to--yes, in the sense that the first part, we would like to modify the treaty in order to be able to put in this simple system. If one later in the future starts to add complexity to that system, you would have to then reopen that discussion.
NEWSHOUR: Finally, one of the other objections that has been raised is that this seems to run contrary to most of the Acquisitions Doctrine which is fly before you buy. You are not doing that in this case?
DR. GANSLER: No. I think we are not doing that. We are actually going to be buying the missiles in 2003, and we will have had by that point a large number of flights and actually have had over 13 intercept flights hopefully by that point and--[audio break].
NEWSHOUR: Well, let's start with the geopolitical question. If the allies are not on board, can you proceed with a system that requires the cooperation to sight various elements of the system?
DR. GANSLER: The elements that are required right now in this initial system, there are some requirements for cooperation from our allies. These are the warning radars. They already exist in those locations, in those countries. All we would be doing is upgrading some of them in terms of the software upgrades particularly, and so we do require their cooperation in terms of allowing us to make those changes, but because of the fact that they already exist and because of the fact that they are increasingly recognizing this as a threat and because we are working closely with them to try to evolve an architecture that would incorporate them, I think we will be able to work that problem. I don't think it is a long-term serious problem, but it is a concern and one that we need to work very carefully with our allies.
NEWSHOUR: When you say you think you will be able to work it out, have they given you the indication that, indeed, you will be able to?
DR. GANSLER: I think what we have gotten so far from them is a firm statement about the recognition of the threat and understanding why we're doing what we're doing and a concern as to whether or not we can get an agreement to modify the treaty, and that is what we are working on, of course.
NEWSHOUR: Then you heard the other question of Dr. Postal's concern, more than a concern, that you had misinterpreted and reinterpreted test results in your favor and, actually to be perfectly blunt, phoneyed the test results.
DR. GANSLER: There have been some accusations that in fact we either phoneyed the data, we lied, this was fraud, et cetera, et cetera. There is no basis for that whatsoever at all.
The database in which that particular set of accusations were made was on an interceptor early flight test on an interceptor we chose not to use. This is one that had been rejected. There was a competition, and they lost that competition.
There is a court case on as to the contractor in that case, which is--I am not going to comment on that, but on the other hand, with all of the data that we have used and all of the flights--and I can assure you, there has been no attempt either not only in terms of the sort of blatant accusations of lying and fraud and all of that sort of thing, but even the politics aspect of it.
There are decisions that we are making in terms of the technical capabilities of the system are not based on the political consideration of, you know, Republican and Democratic political. There is obviously geopolitical considerations in terms of our allies and some of the things we have talked about, but not in terms of the local domestic politics, at least not from my perspective.
Now, the Secretary and the President will be making the decisions. It is not mine. But in terms of whether or not the system is technically capable of doing the job, that is not a political decision.
NEWSHOUR: But nonetheless, the politics are real and the fact that, to some extent, certainly Republicans aren't going to be suggesting a much more robust system than the ones that you are suggesting. Does that push you further along in terms of your own thinking and decision-making?
DR. GANSLER: No. We have been evaluating alternate ways of complementing this system, sea-based capability, boost-phased intercept systems, and alternate approaches to the discrimination problems and things that we might consider in the out-years for this system.
We have been driven in the overall evolution of this system primarily by trying to get to a certain time and place so we could address the threat that exists perhaps in the 2005 time period, and so the system that we have under development is geared towards that.
It is important to recognize this is not solely a time-based system. It is event-based. In other words, we do have to prove that it works. You can't just sort of say, well, I have to have it by 2005, so I will go ahead and build it even if it doesn't work. That is not the basis under which we are making the decision. It is event-driven in the sense we have to prove that the interceptor works, the radar works, the booster works, et cetera, but having said that, we are clearly seeing in the out time the need to address that 2005 schedule. So, with that in mind, then the rest of the program is moving ahead.
NEWSHOUR: There are others, as you know, who are suggesting that the smart way to proceed would be a boost-phased system. What do you think about that?
DR. GANSLER: Well, there have been a variety of boost-phased suggestions. The Russians have made one in terms of ground-based system with a high-performance interceptor from Russia either aimed towards Iran, North Korea, that they say could then perhaps jointly develop. We are looking into that.
There is another possibility which is the sea-based, boost-phased intercept. That has to have the ships close to the shore because you have to have a very fast reaction time, and it needs a new interceptor and perhaps a new radar in order to be able to do that so that the time constraint on the design--there is also the vulnerability of that ship, both to cruise missiles from the shore and also from submarines.
If you think about Korea as the example case, their launch site for their testing is right near the shore. So that would be convenient. Their launch site for operational missiles, though, is inland, and they don't--the globe doesn't work so that they would fly over water. They actually would fly over Russia, over the Poles, and then to the United States so that you would have to have a longer range from the water to get to an intercept for a boost if it was coming to the continental United States. Hawaii would be the only one that would fly over the water part for it, and a little bit of Alaska part of it, but for the continental United States, they would actually be flying over land, over Russia, and over the Poles. So you would need--on a ship-based, you would have to be close to the shore, have to have a very high-speed interceptor. We don't have the high-speed interceptor close to the shore as vulnerable, but besides that, you also don't have any decision-making time.
So, as soon as you see it, you have to launch against it. For the midcourse, you do have a long period of time for even the President to decide, yes, I want to shoot against it. Probably, he wouldn't do that. You would have that preplanned, but there would be people in the loop who could make decisions as to whether or not this was a threat, whether or not we wanted to launch multiple shots against it, whether we wanted to worry about where it was going and so forth.
That is the disadvantages, if you will, of the midcourse because you have the discrimination problem, but it is a big advantage in terms of the fact that you have lots more time to be able to do it on multiple shots.
In the boost-phase, you would have to make sure you are successful. You don't have much time at all. You have no time for decision-making. A satellite picks up the booster, and then you instantly have to have a high-performance launch against it.
The Russian-based one is another one that has been proposed. There, you do have some command-and-control issues as to whether or not on Russian soil we would be comfortable with the decision-making process and how we would be involved in that in terms of the man-in-the-loop problems, but they each have problems, and that is--
NEWSHOUR: And space-based?
DR. GANSLER: Space-based is probably the one that has, in some ways, some of the nice features except that technologically it is way out there and also very expensive, but in a time period, we are talking about a space-based laser system that its first space flight will be in the 2012, 2014 time period, and so it is quite way out, and, of course, we haven't demonstrated that at all. That is for an experiment. That is not for a deployment time period. So you are talking about quite far out in terms of a space-based.
Now, if one were to put a lot of intense effort into a space-based system, make that your priority system, and, of course, all of these, by the way, are violations of the treaty. The treaty explicitly excludes ship-based and space-based systems. So that, we might have a chance at modifying the treaty with our ground-based system because that does allow ground-based systems. It would be a modification of the treaty where the ship-based and the space-based are explicitly excluded.
So you have problems with all of the systems.
NEWSHOUR: What about the--there is a concern, I know, and I have heard this voiced, that foreign countries in particular grow more and more--will grow more and more suspicious of the U.S. intentions with the combination of SPACECOM and a national missile defense system and see this as some sort of betrayal.
DR. GANSLER: It is interesting. I actually see it the other way.
I think that by having this defense system, the United States is more likely to come to the aid of our allies and third-world conflicts, regional conflicts, because they will not be able to deter us from entering by threatening to launch a missile against us.
If we have a defense capability, then we can say, well, we can still go into that region and help you in a conflict that you might have in your local region. If we didn't have a defense capability, they may be able to deter us enough from coming in. So I see it in a much different way than the idea that this is isolating the United States.
I just don't think it is possible today in today's world to even envision any conflict that the United States will be in, in which it won't be in a coalition environment, in other words, that we will be joining our allies, unless somebody can threaten us to keep us out, and that is the fear that I would have relative to someone having ICBMs and be capable of threatening us and then having the political question in the United States, is it worth our going in and risking San Francisco or Los Angeles or Detroit over trying to help somebody in a third-world location.
NEWSHOUR: Good. Thank you again.