The Failures Of Star Wars Revisited

Last September, I warned that you had best remember a name that was in the news at that time. His name was Phillip E. Coyle III and he was the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation for the Pentagon and, as such, had control over what the government tries so hard to call THAAD (Theater High Altitude Area Defense) but what the rest of us laughingly know as Star Wars.

As you know from our last discussion of this multi-billion dollar travesty, this is the system that began as a scientist’s joke on a feeble, mindless old man who just happened to be the President of the United States at the time. Since Reagan (you knew who I meant, didn’t you?) couldn’t tell the difference between scientific reality and scientific humor, he suddenly became convinced that this silliness was feasible. (Well, either he decided that or his handlers saw a way to funnel hundreds of billions of your tax dollars into the defense industry, the same folks who pulled many of the handler’s strings. We’ll work on the first assumption because the second is just too depressing and the first is only pitiful.)

We spoke of the many, many failures experienced during the early testing stages and how, out of six field tests, the entire system only could be said to have worked twice but were, according to Coyle, “highly scripted” (in other words outright fixed). In fact, the tests consisted of firing at a slow moving missile, whose outline and heat profile was programmed into the system, from a predetermined area, toward a known target, at exactly the time ordered and in exactly the trajectory expected. The controllers of the THAAD system then fired exactly where they knew the dummy missile would be and still could only hit it two out six tries.

Coyle pointed out that, in the real world, the missile would be fired from anyplace on Earth at anytime of the day or night at a target whose exact coordinates wouldn’t be known by the THAAD operators until far too late to so easily intercept and at a speed many, many times faster than the dummy tests. Obviously, what Coyle was saying, is that if it can’t hit the equivalent of a target that’s standing still on a regular basis how could it ever be expected to hit a target moving two or three times the speed of sound?

Fast forward to Feb. 15, 2000. After another major test of the system ends in a complete failure, Coyle finds he must again try to alert Congress and the President and, by extension, the American public that this system is, as it stands, absolutely useless. He points out that it will take months for the Pentagon to review the results of the latest test and to determine both the cause and to then prepare a proposal to correct those problems.

Even though the test have been one failure after another, the Defense Secretary, William S. Cohen, is still scheduled to offer his recommendation on the system to President Clinton in June and refuses to delay that meeting for any reason. Warning that imposing such artificial deadlines “has historically resulted in a negative effect on virtually every DOD (Dept. of Defense) development program”, Coyle urged that the analysis of the failures be studied thoroughly before any further recommendations are made.

As this is all occurring during an election cycle only places more pressure on the government officials to make what could only be described as hasty decisions. With politics consisting completely of superficial appearances without any hint of substance, the mere act of pushing the program further along would be seen by the oblivious, television addled public as, at least, some sort of action. Since political candidates are owned and operated by Corporate America and, in this instance, Corporate America’s defense industry, the possibility of a sensible, rational debate on THAAD should be considered rather remote, at best.

With Republicans in Congress adamant that the system be hurried along toward deployment, the President has, supposedly, shown some small signs of reluctance. With a few Republicans, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, breaking rank to oppose a rash determination there is a remote possibility that some small kernel of intellectual thought may go into the making of the next determination. Sadly, as many of the policy makers are either up for re-election or stumping for those that are, it undoubtedly is a rather optimistic and pointless hope.

As you all know, being strong on defense seldom means creating intelligent policies in regards to defense. You can rest assured that the prediction I made in that earlier article will still come to pass. Sadly, the fingers will all point toward someone, anyone but the clowns who, by then, will have left office and will be working for the very same industries they were once entrusted to watch over.( 1 )

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Copyright 2/20/2000