Worldwide Nuclear Missile
Threat To The US
Growing Rapidly
By Catherine Rudolph
Tacoma Reporter

Our military installations give the region economic stability And a big red target under our feet.
Lost in this summer,s endless revelations about the White House sex scandal were a report on nuclear proliferation and an object lesson in nuclear politics courtesy of the North Korean government. In July, a panel of experts led by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld concluded that the ballistic missile threat from unstable governments was far greater than anticipated. In August, North Korea lobbed a short-range ballistic missile 300 miles across the Sea of Japan. The missile splashed down just off Vladivostok, Russia. The North Koreans have admitted that they have gone into the arms business in nuclear weapons: Pakistan tested a Korean-made weapon shortly after its neighbor and rival, India, conducted underground nuclear tests. Korea has also supplied missiles to Iran and Syria.
U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks, a defense expert who also serves on the House Intelligence Committee, is concerned about the threat but believes that the threat of terrorists using more conventional weapons is a bigger problem (and hardly comforting). Dicks says that "U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and Japan are at risk in the present situation." Why should we care? Because the technical sophistication required to make a short range ballistic missile provides the foundation for developing an intercontinental ballistic missile. In three to five years, those living in the western United States could find themselves the objects of nuclear blackmail. The large, sophisticated submarine base at Bangor on the Kitsap Peninsula, Ft. Lewis and McChord Air Force Base make South Puget Sound a primary target.
A major nuclear strike at Bangor would destroy most of the U.S. nuclear submarine fleet in the Pacific Ocean. A strike at McChord would impair the ability of the United States to deploy troops and materiel. With the closure of Ft. Ord in central California, Ft. Lewis has become the Army,s most significant base of operations on the West Coast.
Bases insulate our economy against bad times and provide a source of educated professionals to local businesses, but they come with attached risks. Geopolitics matter in an immediate sense when you and your loved ones could be toasted.
The Rumsfeld Commission Report
The report of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States was unanimous. The nine member panel was composed of Democrats and Republicans who have held senior positions in the nation,s national security agencies. The results of the six month study were grim. The potential for several rogue nations, including Iraq, to develop ICBM,s in the short term is very real. The timeline for such development projected by the commission was much shorter than that assumed in the Central Intelligence Agency forecast. The CIA had forecast that development of ICBM capability by a variety of competitors was 15 years away. The commission concluded that three to five years was a more realistic estimate.
Countries which pose an ongoing threat to the United States, such as Iraq(which had developed short-range ballistic missiles prior to the Gulf War), have the knowledge to develop long range missiles in a relatively short span of time. The commission concluded that it would take only three to five year for a technologically sophisticated country to develop an ICBM from the point at which it decides to develop such a weapon.
The breakup of the Soviet Union, far from providing a breather from the threat of nuclear weapons, has probably increased the rate at which such weapons are spreading across the globe as technicians and technology are sold to the highest bidder.
Intercontinental Range Not Necessary For Weapons Of Mass Destruction
Rumsfeld points out that short- and medium-range ballistic missiles"missiles with a range of up to about 1500 miles"are portable. They could be moved on cargo ships and launched from the deck of the ship. They could be placed in another country,s territory close to a target country and launched from there.
Short-range missiles in the hands of any unstable government increase the terrorist threat to the United States. Unstable governments are less likely to retain control of their weapons inventory. "In some ways, I agree with Admiral James Woolsey, the former CIA Director, who said that the world was a much safer place when it was the U.S. vs. the Soviet Union," Dicks said.
Intelligence Capabilities Eroding?
On July 15, 1998, CIA Director George Tenet issued a copy of a letter sent to senior members of Congress which responded to the Rumsfeld Commission report. Tenet wrote: "The differences center more on when specific threats will materialize, rather than whether there is a serious threat. In our March, 1998 Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Missile Developments, we underline the significant threat posed today by medium-range missiles, our continuing concern about existing and emerging ICBMs, and the immediate danger that comes from the proliferation activities of countries that possess or are developing such systems."
Rumsfeld believes that over 20 countries are engaged in such development.
"It,s important that we have multiple sources of intelligence," states Dicks. "Intelligence is a big force multiplier." He says closed societies such as North Korea are among the most difficult challenges to our intelligence capability. "North Korea is a hard target, and one of the hard targets where we don,t have great capability." Dicks believes that the risk of massive retaliation toward any country or group which attacks the U.S. will continue to act as a deterrent to such activity.
Dicks Says U.S. Strength Still Poses A Credible Deterrent
"If you have 18 Trident submarines with 24 launchers times x number of warheads, you have a credible deterrent," according to Congressman Dicks.
Dicks believes that "smart" conventional weapons such as the B-2 Bomber provide the United States with strategic options. "With the B-2, we could stop the invasion of South Korea or destroy a cache of biological weapons. In a dangerous situation, the ability to use air power and control air space would give us maximum leverage in a variety of situations."
Dicks says that rational actors aren,t going to take on the United States. "Our strength is in precision weapons. Smart weapons on the B-2 can hit targets from 45,000 feet up. There is a huge risk in attacking the U.S. with the type of devastating capability we can bring down on our adversaries," Dicks said.
Dicks believes that small-scale terrorist activity against U.S. cities should be of greater concern to citizens than a rogue nation using missiles. Nonetheless, he supports actions to defend our nation against the missile threat.
An Anti-Ballistic Missile Strategy?
Dicks supports continued exploration of anti-ballistic missile technologies, but he does not believe that the U.S. should make a major investment in an unproven technology, but rather a series of research and development investments that might lead to a technology which would be effective against both ballistic missile and cruise missiles (which are harder to detect than ballistic missiles). "The use-a-bullet-to-hit-a-bullet, strategy doesn,t work. That was proved in the Gulf War. If the scud missiles had been more accurate, we would have been in a lot of trouble."
The Rumsfeld Commission report specifically endorses the acquisition of a defense against the ballistic missile threat.
North Korea: the Last Stalinist State is Poor, Starving and "Negotiating" with Missile Technology.
"North Korea is not self-sufficient in food. People live under the harshest of conditions. It,s one of the last Communist regimes," said Congressman Dicks. He said negotiations are under way to try to improve the food situation.
In an interview last spring, Kathy McCaul, a spokeswoman for a major relief organization"World Vision"expressed concerns about the distribution of food within North Korea. World Vision discovered that grain distributions delivered for the general populace were being diverted to the military. World Vision solved the problem by using feeding centers for children as direct distribution sites rather than putting supplies in the hands of the government.
Some expert observers believe that the North Koreans are attempting to use the sale of missile technology as leverage in negotiations with the United States.
Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg, in a copyrighted interview with The Washington Post, said he believed that North Korea was unhappy with the state of its agreement with the U.S. to suspend its nuclear weapons tests in exchange for fuel oil shipments.
In the target-rich environment of South Puget Sound, we can only hope the United States government takes decisive action against further weapons developments by North Korea and other powers with the habit of testing our will.
Specific Findings of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is a sensible conservative who is taken seriously by the leaders of both parties. Rumsfeld has run major corporations and has an educated view of technology. The former ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has also served as the chairman and CEO of General Instrument Company and G.D. Searle Pharmaceuticals. (He,s the man to thank or curse for the development of Equal sweetener.) He has also served as chairman of RAND, a think tank specializing in defense analysis, and chairman of Gilead Sciences, a company which is a leader in IDS research. The other members of the bipartisan commission were equally well pedigreed.
1) "Concerted efforts by a number of overtly or potentially hostile nations to acquire ballistic missiles with biological or nuclear payloads pose a growing threat to the United States, its deployed forces and its friends and allies."
2) "The threat to the U.S. posed by these emerging capabilities is broader, more mature, and evolving more rapidly than has been reported in estimates and reports by the intelligence community."
3) "The Intelligence Community,s ability to provide timely and accurate estimates of ballistic missile threats to the U.S. is eroding."
4) "The warning times the U.S. can expect of new, threatening ballistic missile deployments are being reduced." The United States Senate has endorsed the findings of the commission by specific resolution, sponsored by Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona. The resolution stated in part that "North Korea is developing the Taepo Dong intermediate range ballistic missile, which is expected to have sufficient range to put at risk United States territories, forces and allies throughout the Asia-Pacific area. Multi-stage missiles like the Taepo Dong class missile can ultimately be extended to intercontinental range." The resolution directs that "the recommendations of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States should be incorporated into the analytical processes of the United States intelligence community as soon as possible."
The resolution also states that the United States should accelerate cooperative theater missile defense programs with Japan.
Catherine Rudolph