The Pueblo Chieftain reported on Republican Wayne Allard's Senate floor speech praising the success of the Missile Defense Agency's recent ground-based missile defense exercise and denouncing "naysayers and doubters on missile defense." But the Chieftain failed to cite the views of any of the unnamed "naysayers and doubters."
In a September 13 article by Peter Roper, The Pueblo Chieftain reported on Sen. Wayne Allard's (R-CO) Senate floor speech praising the success of the Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) most recent ground-based missile defense exercise and flight test and denouncing "naysayers and doubters on missile defense." However, the Chieftain failed to cite or quote the views of any of the unnamed "naysayers and doubters" Allard criticized.
On September 1, the MDA's ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system launched an interceptor missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aimed at a target missile fired from Kodiak Island, Alaska. Although the MDA said the primary objective of the exercise was data collection, the target missile was successfully intercepted over the Pacific Ocean.
A major supporter of missile defense, Allard delivered a Senate floor speech September 8 congratulating the head of MDA, Lieutenant General Henry A. Obering, for the successful intercept. The Chieftain reported Allard's statement that " '[t]his success only builds upon a long record of missile defense intercepts and, more importantly, is the fourth intercept in the last 90 days that uses hit-to-kill technology,' " which employs an interceptor missile to "kill" a target missile warhead by impact ("hit") alone. The Chieftain also quoted Allard saying, " 'There have been many naysayers and doubters on missile defense,' " but the paper included no such criticisms in the article. Nor did the Chieftain include comments by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, an avid supporter of missile defense, who, according to the Los Angeles Times, responded to the test by saying "he wanted to see a test of the system, 'where we actually put all the pieces together. That just hasn't happened.' "
The Chieftain also reported, "Noting that a defense network is needed to protect the U.S. from 'rogue nations,' Allard said the missile agency had demonstrated that 'hit-to-kill' intercepts work and the next step is to broaden the technology to provide a higher level of security."
Unlike the Chieftain, other news outlets did report the missile defense critics' statements. On September 2, a New York Times article quoted Stephen Young, a missile defense expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, criticizing the test: " 'This test was as scripted as it can be,' he said. 'It's a very complicated test, technically, but it's much simpler than dealing with an actual missile launch would be.' In a real-life attack, he said, far less would be known about the timing, trajectory and characteristics of an incoming warhead."
Inside Missile Defense (subscription only), a publication of InsideDefense.com, reported September 13 that research analyst Victoria Samson of the Center for Defense Information said the program was a "nice achievement for MDA." But she also noted that, "While yes, they did achieve an intercept, this is in no way, shape, or form, an end-to-end test of the system. ... Today's intercept was the sixth out of 11 attempts, the first one [of the GMD system] in nearly four years, and the only one to date with the operationally configured warhead. This system has much left to prove." And, on September 1, the Associated Press quoted defense expert and director of the think tank GlobalSecurity.org, John Pike: " 'The whole point is for us not to worry about the North Korean missiles. ... They are not close to that yet. Whether it will ever happen is subject to debate." The AP also noted that "[m]ore than $100 billion has been spent on America's missile-defense system since 1983 and it has been the subject of criticism by those who call it a costly boondoggle."
In contrast to Roper's Chieftain article, a September 8 article about Allard's floor speech posted to The Denver Post's "Washington and the West" weblog quoted Pike and included the views of other skeptical experts:
"There have been many doubters on missile defense," Allard said. "But I'm proud to have supported the Missile Defense Agency over the past several years. There is an emphasis on quality that is paying off."
Still, many defense experts said the United States has a long way to go in implementing a viable missile defense system, particularly in deflecting the North Korean nuclear threat.
"How soon does he (Allard) think missile defense will render North Korea's nuclear threat impotent and obsolete?" said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington, D.C., think tank. "This is the real test, and this goal seems so far in the future that no one is speaking in such terms today."
Other experts have said that missile defense tests are problematic because they do not replicate an actual attack, when an enemy would likely launch multiple decoys rather than one warhead.
"Allard is talking about the missile side of the equation. That's only the first and easiest part of what we have to do," said David Wright, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "All the best technology doesn't do any good if you can't identify a warhead."
From Roper's September 13 Chieftain article, "Allard credits missile agency with successful test":
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is making important strides in developing a successful missile interceptor system, Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., told the Senate last week.
"This success only builds upon a long record of missile defense intercepts and, more importantly, is the fourth intercept in the last 90 days that uses hit-to-kill technology," Allard said in a floor speech to the Senate.
Allard said that the missile command conducted successful tests in June, July and August.
"There have been many naysayers and doubters on missile defense," Allard said, adding that failed tests have also taught the agency lessons about intercept technology.
Noting that a defense network is needed to protect the U.S. from "rogue nations," Allard said the missile agency had demonstrated that "hit-to-kill" intercepts work and the next step is to broaden the technology to provide a higher level of security.