Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States
Appendix III: Unclassified Working Papers
Technology Transfers: David C. Isby, John M. Myrah
and Henry Sokolski
April 9, 1998
On 9 April 1998, System Planning Corporation hosted an unclassified
roundtable discussion on Russia for the Commission to Assess the Ballistic
Missile Threat to the United States. SPC assembled three prominent experts
on the alternative pathways to acquire ballistic missile capabilities: John
M. Myrah, of Thiokol, Henry Sokolski, from The Nonproliferation Policy
Education Center, and David C. Isby, of Sparta Incorporated. This paper
summarizes their findings and notes key areas of consensus and dissent.
An Industry View of Ballistic Missile Threat: John M. Myrah
According to John Myrah, there are three main problems relating to the
ballistic missile threat: defining the aggressor; identifying our enemies;
and proving guilt through current U.S. statutes.
Since the end of the Cold War, identifying the aggressor has become
increasingly difficult. Although U.S. intelligence assets focus on
terrorist states, it is impossible to track every terrorist. Myrah pointed
out that terrorists may attack, not only from a terrorist state, but also
from friendly territory. In such an event, against whom should the United
States retaliate? Myrah also emphasized that the U.S. has difficulty
controlling information that can be used against the United States by an
aggressor. Moreover, current U.S. regulations are ineffective for
Myrah offered multiple examples where sensitive information can be obtained
through open-sources. The first case describes information on U.S.
strategic plans that are available through the Internet. The second example
pointed out that foreign students, including those from terrorist states,
are given access to the best scientific and technical education in the
world. Further examples show that U.S. government computer systems are
subject to attacks from hackers. Myrah's fourth illustration referred to
defense-related items, such as gyroscopes and inertial devices, that are
being exported by other countries (like Russia, where engineers are paid
approximately $100 per month) to known proliferants like Iraq and Iran.
By contrast, relatively harmless technology, such as rocket motor casings,
are subject to needless bureaucratic control. Lastly, Myrah stressed that
political favoritism is allowed to dictate policy on technology transfer.
In particular, Loral and Hughes are under investigation for transferring
missile guidance technology to China. A recent New York Times article
reported that the Clinton Administration gave a quiet go-ahead to one
company for sharing similar information. David Isby also cited U.S. missile
technology exports to China (the Loral and Hughes case specifically). The
Administration position on such matters, claimed Myrah, makes it extremely
difficult to prosecute such violations. Moreover, the Administration's
willingness to bypass arms control regulations sends conflicting signals to
interested domestic and international audiences regarding U.S. position on
the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and export controls.
Solutions to the Problems?
John Myrah offered some solutions to the problems included limiting or
controlling who has access to our institutions of higher learning,
especially scientific and technical knowledge. He suggested employing the
people who can be of the most use to us, like hackers, to build a better
security system for computer information. Moreover, he advocated convening
an inter-agency group of senior-level people to revise export controls.
These senior-level officials would be on standby to make decisions that
junior officers are perhaps not qualified to make.
Academia's View of Space Technology Transfers and Missile Proliferation:
David C. Isby and Henry Sokolski
Henry Sokolski and David Isby focused on space cooperation as a path to
missile proliferation. The 1995 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)
"Emerging Missile Threats to North America within the Next 15 Years" states
that a select group of countries with space-launch vehicle (SLV) could
convert them into Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) within 5
years. Sokolski and Isby argued that SLV technology and technical know-how
may break existing "Scud missile technology barriers," thus eliminating
propulsion obstacles. As a result, more strict controls need to be applied
to SLV technology transfers.
Another issue of concern raised by Sokolski and Isby highlighted ongoing
U.S. financial and technical assistance to Russia and China despite
continued violations of international arms control efforts. Isby pointed
out the transfer of missile technology and defense items to Iran by Russia.
Ballistic missile programs in North Korea, Iran, India, and Pakistan have
been aided by international assistance, particularly Russian and Chinese.
Russia and China Space-Launch Cooperation with the U.S.
In an effort to alleviate commercial pressure to launch U.S.-made
satellites, the U.S. entered into an agreement with China to allow China to
launch U.S. satellites with PRC's SLV. U.S. industry focused on enhancing
the reliability of Chinese launch capabilities in order to improve the
safety and reliability of a Chinese launch. The U.S. government was not
inclined to share this launch technology for fear that the information
could later be used to assist China's missile development. Thus, the U.S.
favored the existing faulty Chinese design to limit U.S. assistance for
China's SLV program and perhaps to hinder the re-export of U.S. technology
in the future.
Russian Missile Cooperation
A similar agreement was initiated with the Russians after the fall of the
Soviet Union. While the cooperation progressed, Russia continued to
transfer missile technology to Iran. The U.S. gave hard currency to pay for
these launches, which Russia has used to finance missile development and
export activities. Sokolski noted that one Russian firm contracted with the
Indian Scientific Research Organization (ISRO) to sell cryogenic upper
stages to India, a transfer prohibited by the MTCR.
The U.S. has turned a "blind eye" to Russian exports because of political
pressures to maintain positive U.S.-Russia relations and commercial
pressure. Both men agreed that the United States has been reluctant to
impose sanctions on Russia or block exports due to diplomatic
Another issue addressed by Isby and Sokolski was intangible
technology--technical know-how--which is transferred through electronic
means or conversations. This information exchange facilitates timely,
reliable, and accurate placement of the satellites in space. This dual-use
information may be transferred to targeting technologies for ICBMs.
Sokolski predicted that the U.S. would continue to tolerate Russian and
Chinese cooperation with Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and India. He
believes that the U.S. will continue to engage in space cooperation with
Russia and China even though their behavior is accelerating missile
Two trends in proliferation could emerge within the next five years. First,
there will be an overabundance of space-launch capabilities, which are
fueled by economic incentives and moderated by U.S. cooperation (financial
and technical). These space-launch capabilities could be transferred to
missile development programs and thus further missile proliferation. The
second trend will be an increase in nations mastering Scud missile
technology and seeking to improve Scud capabilities by possibly "spinning
on" SLV technologies.