New emphasis for SDIO

The US Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) has moved to cut its funding for space-based systems in order to increase its ability to deploy a ground-based system in conformity to the United States Missile Defence Act of 1991.

The system proposed by this Act would be. in compliance with the Treaty on anti-ballistic missiles and would have the qc,1 of proViding a ground-based SDI system by 1996 with the capacity to defend most of the continental United States. This has lead to reductions in funding the “brilliant pebbles” space-based intercepter Programme.”

The same organisation that used to argue that it was impractical to build a ground-based defence for the US is now talking about deploying a system of that sort by 1956; just 3 years. It also speaks of “defending most of the US” which would seem to require many bases. Although it speaks of being, in compliance with the 1972 ABM treaty, that treaty clearly limits the number and Location of such bases. This organisation has a long history of reading the 1972 ABM treaty in very creative ways. You may recall the debate over the meaning of “research” in the 1972 treaty, The debate was important because the SDIO claimed that research was permitted by the treaty.

Those who remember the discussions of the meaning of “research” would be surprised to know that the word “research” never appears in that treaty. The debate was continued because nobody bothered to read the treaty.

The justification for the switch to ground-based defence seems to be based on the purported “success” of the Patriot. In spite of fairly convincing testimony before Congress to the effect that the Patriot caused more damage than it prevented and failed to destroy a single missile, this justification seems to be working. Patriot is also successful in foreign tales, but Israeli purchasers are said to be modifying it so that it will work the next time.

The budget for the SDIO has hovered above US $5,000,000,000, more than in the early Reagan years. There aredetermined efforts to create the impression that we no longer have to worry about disarmament, but observers will find that the arms development race is continuing. The military has agreed to get rid of the excess baggage of certain old nuclear weapons, but continues to develop new weapons that it considers more flexible and “useful”,

This is not the time for those of us who want real disarmament to relax and turn to other issues. Au contraire! It is a time, for increased vigilance and efforts to keep our colleagues and the public aware of what is going on.