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F.A.S. Public Interest Report

Journal of the Federation of American Scientists (F.A.S.)

Volume 52, Number 6   November/December 1999

[ PIR Sun tag ] National Missile Defense: Rushing to Failure: by John E. Pike
[ PIR Sun tag ]Bait and Switch: Is Anti-North Korean Missile Defense Designed for China? by Charles D. Ferguson
[ PIR Sun tag ] FAS Notes
[ PIR Sun tag ] FAS PIR Index


Politics Behind Missile Defense

The continuing saga of America's romance with missile defense is on the verge of entering a new chapter. In June of 2000 the Clinton Administration is slated to decide on the deployment of a limited national missile defense system, which would become operational by the year 2005.

From a policy perspective, the choice is clear. The Administration has stated that its decision will be based on four criteria: the threat, technical maturity of the system, the ABM Treaty, and costs. On all four counts, the obvious decision is in the negative. The missile threat from rogue states such as Iraq and Iran remains minimal. If anything, the North Korean threat has receded with the success of the diplomatic initiatives of former Defense Secretary William Perry. The technology of national missile defense is almost entirely untested, will remain largely untested by the middle of next year, and will remain profoundly fragile for many years to come. The ABM Treaty remains a cornerstone of the strategic arms reductionprocess, and the Russians have demonstrated active disinterest in the various revisions to the Treaty proposed to accommodate the American national missile defense program. The tens of billions expended on missile defense since the Reagan Strategic Defense Initiative of 1983 have produced amazingly paltry results, and there is little prospect that further billions will be more productive.

The simplicity of the policy choice is exceeded only by the complexity of the political choice facing the Clinton Administration. Enthusiasm for missile defense has emerged as the centerpiece of the Republican national security agenda, and will surely figure prominently in presidential election rhetoric. Although the 1996 Dole campaign failed to gain political traction with this issue, risk-averse Democrats are eager to avoid an opening for anticipated campaign salvos.

In 1967 the Johnson Administration decided to deploy a missile defense, largely to defend against Republican political attacks. In 2000 the Clinton Administration seems fated to follow suit.

Squaring the circle of policy and politics should proceed from an intent to do no harm. The next President, of either party, will surely initiate a review of missile defense programs, and the Clinton Administration should not prejudge that review. A political commitment to eventually deploy missile defense, sufficient to provide election-year cover, need not and should not commit the United States to immediate and possibly irreversible actions, such as premature construction of Treaty-busting facilities.

Nearly a decade elapsed between the political decision of 1967 and the policy decision of 1976 to abandon the Safeguard ABM system. With luck and effort, prudent policy will once again eventually prevail over expedient politics. Following the unexpected setback on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, our community must devote renewed energy to reminding the Clinton Administration of the folly of a premature commitment to deploy unproven technology. In any event, politicians will soon enough discover that it is far easier to make a political commitment to missile defense than it is to give reality to such a commitment. We will have more than one occasion following the 2000 election to press home our case for a more prudent course on reducing nuclear dangers. [This editorial was reviewed and approved by the FAS Council.] [ PIR Sun tag ]

FAS Recruting New President

FAS and its research arm, the FAS Fund, are currently looking for a new president or executive director to replace Jeremy J. Stone who has been the CEO of FAS since 1970. Candidates should possess demonstrated leadership in the areas in which FAS has historically concentrated (national security; arms control and disarmament; non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons); fund-raising experience or aptitude and commitment; and a Ph.D. or recognized competence in the technical aspects of FAS issues. The new president will be encouraged to extend FAS into new related fields involving science and technology, and to expand collaboration with allied organizations. Salary is commensurate with experience. All members are strongly encouraged to recruit candidates. Interested candidates should promptly e-mail a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and references to [email protected] or send materials to FAS, 307 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002. FAS is an equal opportunity employer. [ PIR Sun tag ]

Annual Meeting

On November 12-13, FAS held its 55th annual meeting and the 30th over which the current President, Jeremy J. Stone, has presided since becoming FAS steward in June, 1970. In light of the many decisions to be made to respond to his decision to stand down, no Public Service Award was made and the time was devoted, instead, to discussing the impending search. (Stone had received the Public Service Award five years before).

New Council Members Sought

FAS members are urged to suggest five candidates for three new members of the FAS National Council. Elections will be held in March. Please send your suggestions to Karen Kelley at [email protected]

As we are updating our member database, please also send Karen your current contact information (name, mailing address, phone/fax number, e-mail address, and professional discipline). [ PIR Sun tag ]

The FAS Council took note of a decision made earlier by the FAS Fund Board, without objection, to transfer certain monies, at the suggestion of a donor, from the FAS Fund to Catalytic Diplomacy, the new organization being started by Stone, to facilitate his continued work with monies donated for that purpose. Meanwhile, Stone agreed to administer FAS through June 30, 2000 to provide time for the search and some overlap with the new president or director. (He is now, by agreement, working 75% for FAS and 25% for Catalytic Diplomacy which has already begun substantive work. (The Board of Trustees of Catalytic Diplomacy will be chaired by Alton Frye, a distinguished political scientist and long-time senior Vice President of the Council on Foreign Relations.)

In remarks on November 12, Stone thanked all officials concerned for the constant support over thirty years and moved to "adopt" three present or former staff members: Steven Aftergood, Lora Lumpe and Michael Mann. (Lora had earlier agreed to be "some kind of niece"). A warm and loving atmosphere prevailed. FAS Chairman Carl Kaysen advised the group that Stone had left the organization "in great shape". [ PIR Sun tag ]

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The Public Interest Report is published six times a year. Printed copies of this issue are available by contacting the FAS offices. An annual subscription costs $25.00.

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