Testimony As Elaborated From Talking Points
By Henry F. Cooper
Before the New Hampshire House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs and State-Federal Relations
January 9, 2002

    Chairman Avery and Committee members, I am pleased to speak in favor of HR21.

    First, let me say a few words about myself.  I hold a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and my professional career spans over forty years, working in government and the private sector on nuclear weapons effects and strategic issues involving both offensive and defensive systems.  Most pertinent to my testimony today are my service as:

    Having indicated my background and current pertinent interests, I will speak today as a private citizen, rather than as a representative of any government of private organization.

    My prepared testimony for the record discusses the record of a “lost decade” for developing effective defenses, and I urge you to read it in its entirety.  You may find of particular interest the appendix, which deals with most of the issues raised yesterday in a “point-counterpoint” format.

    HR21 is timely because, if passed and sent to the President and the U.S. Congress, it could be very helpful in the likely debate about President Bush’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty on June 13, 2002.  Some powerful members of Congress will seek to replace the ABM Treaty with new negotiated constraints or with unilateral legislated constraints – because they oppose building effective ballistic missile defenses.

    Alternatively, I believe we need to let the limits be set by the available technology and our best engineers, not by politics and arms control lawyers – and passage of HR21 will help support that point-of-view.

No ABM Treaty Means Less Expensive, More Effective Defenses

    I want to emphasize the importance of removing ABM Treaty constraints that have prevented our engineers from even testing the most effective, least expensive missile defense systems.  For example, Article V specifically bans the development, testing and deployment of sea-based, air-based, and space-based ballistic ABM systems – and these system concepts provide the most cost-effective options for defending the American homeland.

    Such mobile defenses provide great flexibility in intercepting ballistic missiles in all phases of their flight – from “boost-phase,” while the attacking missile rockets are still burning; to the “midcourse-phase” outside the earth’s atmosphere, where distinguishing actual warheads from decoys is a key technical problem; to the “terminal phase,” when lightweight decoys are stripped away from the warheads by air resistance during reentry.

    To illustrate the potential of such systems, I want to review briefly three specific options I was pursuing as SDI Director during the first Bush Administration.   There is little doubt that all three systems could have been built by now but for the inhibitions of the ABM Treaty that were given priority by the Clinton Administration.

Sea-based Interceptors

    We can build sea-based global defenses against ballistic missiles relatively quickly by upgrading the Aegis cruisers, which already protect the fleet around the world against aircraft and cruise missile threats. This would be relatively inexpensive because we can build on the existing Aegis system infrastructure in which the American taxpayer has already invested around $60 billion.  For a relatively small investment:

    According to Navy studies conducted over the past several years, relatively inexpensive options can be exercised in a staged way to begin defending the United States homeland within a year – once we drop the ABM Treaty’s ban on developing and testing sea-based ABM systems:

    None of these sea-based options were seriously pursued by the Clinton Administration – I believe because development and testing of sea-based ABM systems is explicitly banned by the ABM Treaty.  In fact, it is an engineering challenge to build a sea-based defense for our overseas troops, friends and allies – which is not banned by the Treaty – without that system not also being capable of protecting Americans at home.

    But the engineers during the Clinton Administration met this challenge and successfully dumbed-down the sea-based theater defenses to abide by the Treaty.  They:

Space-Based Interceptors

    Space-based interceptors called “Brilliant Pebbles” were inexpensive, small, light-weight satellites commanded by on-board computers equivalent to the Cray 1 in computing power to maneuver into the path of attacking ballistic missiles in their boost-, mid-course-, and terminal-phases.  About 1000 of these highly maneuverable satellites were to be continuously on station with the capability of providing multiple intercept opportunities against ballistic missiles launched from anywhere to anywhere else more than a few hundred miles away.

    Brilliant Pebbles was the most advanced concept with near-term deployment possibilities produced by SDI during the Reagan-Bush I years, even though it was not “politically correct.”  It was begun as a classified program, and made public in 1988 when President Reagan used it to justify vetoing the Defense Authorization Act for 1989 because that Act would have limited the funding for space-based interceptors.

    Subsequently, Brilliant Pebbles was subjected to numerous reviews, including by the Defense Science Board and the Jason – a group of university physicists who work on defense technologies.  They supported moving forward with Brilliant Pebbles – indeed, they recommended that the development of other basing concepts also exploit the Brilliant Pebbles technology, which was far ahead of anything else produced by the SDI program.  That transfer was begun on my watch as SDI Director, but discontinued by the Clinton Administration.

    In 1990, Brilliant Pebbles became the first SDI program to be approved to enter the Pentagon’s formal acquisition process as a Major Defense Acquisition Program.  If it could have been continued unencumbered by the ABM Treaty, I believe a complete Brilliant Pebbles constellation could have been deployed by the mid-1990s for under $7 billion.  But that was not permitted by the political realities of the time.

    As part of the Missile Defense Act of 1991 – passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress, the Pentagon was given a mandate to deploy a ground-based interceptor system, beginning with a site in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  This same Act directed that Brilliant Pebbles be removed from its Major Defense Acquisition Program status – although Congress directed it be continued with “robust” funding to permit a vigorous technology demonstration program.  I left an approved budget to the Clinton Administration that included $300-400 million a year to support such a technology demonstration program.

    But the Clinton Administration quickly scuttled the SDI program I left – “taking the stars out of Star Wars,” Defense Secretary Les Aspin claimed.  They cut the funding for the North Dakota ground-based interceptor site by 80-percent and returned industry’s proposals unopened – and they cancelled all funding for the Brilliant Pebbles program.  (They even cut by 25-percent the funding for Theater Missile Defenses to protect our overseas troops, friends, and allies, which they claimed were their top priority.)

    Still, Brilliant Pebbles legacy technology continued to advance in non-defense applications – particularly in the 1994 Clementine mission that returned to the Moon for the first time in 25 years, mapped the Moon’s surface in over a million frames of data in 15 spectral bands, and discovered water at the Moon’s south pole.  The National Academy of Sciences and NASA gave the small Clementine mission team awards for an extraordinary demonstration and technical achievement.

    The Clementine spacecraft was launched within 2 years after the mission was conceived in my office; and it space qualified all the first generation Brilliant Pebbles technology other than its propulsion hardware – and that was space-qualified on an ASTRID mission a year later.

    The implications of this success apparently was more than the Clinton Administration could bear, and President Clinton used his short-lived line item veto in 1997 to kill the Congressional initiative for a follow-on Clementine mission to send a deep-space probe to an asteroid, using even more advanced technology that could also be used in a space-based interceptor.  White House aid Bob Bell explained at the associated press conference that the veto was because of the SDI heritage of the technology involved.

    Brilliant Pebbles still has not been revived by the current Bush Administration – possibly because of politically potent ABM Treaty concerns.  Neither is Brilliant Pebbles technology being exploited by other interceptor concepts – as was recommended by the 1989-90 independent reviews.  Hopefully this will change now that the President has announced that the United States will withdraw from the Treaty on June 13, 2002.

Air-Based Interceptors

    I wish briefly to mention Raptor-Talon, another potentially rapidly deployable effective boost-phase interceptor demonstration program killed by the Clinton Administration in 1993.

    Raptor is a less expensive unpiloted air vehicle (UAV) than Predator or Global Hawk – which have been flying in Afghanistan.  We developed and built two Raptors for about $3 million.  One crashed and the other has been flying at NASA for the past eight years.

    Talon was a boost-phase interceptor, based on Brilliant Pebbles technology – now proven by the Clementine mission.  It was to be launched from Raptor like Hellfire missiles are being launched from Predator against ground targets in Afghanistan – except that the targets would be boosting missiles while their rockets are still burning.

    Raptor-Talon’s problem was that if it could shoot down a missile in its boost-phase it could protect the entire world, including the United States – and that meant the ABM Treaty would not permit it even to be tested.  When the Treaty is behind us, this concept clearly should be revived.


    Mr. Chairman, these three examples make clear there will be new opportunities for cost-effective, layered ballistic missile defenses once we are free of the ABM Treaty constraints.

    These three opportunities would exploit mature technology to form a layered defense for less money than the Clinton ground-based interceptor plan, which was designed more to require at most minor Treaty changes rather than to build an effective defense.  The Bush Administration has so far made only minor modifications to the Clinton plan – which must be complemented with other systems to achieve the layered defense President Bush has said he wants.

    Finally, I want to emphasize that consistent political will is the most important ingredient to building effective missile defenses.  The technology is mature – most of the key elements of the “hit to kill” technology were demonstrated 15 years ago.  Recent test failures have been dominated by errors in aerospace engineering discipline – a discipline mastered 30 years ago.

    Our engineers will eventually get it right – and the Russians and others will join us in building an effective global defense against ballistic missiles for the entire world community.

    Mr. Chairman, I applaud the initiative of the sponsors of HR21 and strongly urge its passage.

House Resolution 21
Committee of Veterans Affairs and State-Federal Relations
New Hampshire House of Representatives

Be It Resolved By The Legislature of the State of New Hampshire:

WHEREAS, New Hampshire is located in the New England region of the Northeastern United States and is populated by over 1,000,000 persons, and maintains distinguished centers of higher learning, and is the site of advanced information and defense technology, and is noted for outstanding natural endowments of forests, mountains, lakes, and derives partial energy from nuclear power; and

WHEREAS, the People of New Hampshire are conscious of the state’s current assets and favorable future development for their children in other generations; and

WHEREAS, New Hampshire responded to the call at Bunker Hill with volunteers in the struggle for American independence and has contributed to national defense through its citizenry ever since; and

WHEREAS, the People of New Hampshire are aware of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their threat to New Hampshire, New England, and the United States; and

WHEREAS, the United States does not possess a means of defense against ballistic missiles, bearing warheads of mass destruction, launched by those who oppose American interests throughout the world; and

WHEREAS, New Hampshire is imperiled by the existing incapability of national self-defense against ballistic missile attack from hostile or accidental sources along with other States of the Union; in consequence, New Hampshire asserts it leadership as one of fifty;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of New Hampshire respectfully requests the President of the United States to take all actions necessary, within the considerable limits of technological resources of this great Union, to protect New Hampshire, New England, and all the people of the United States from the threat of missile attack; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature of New Hampshire respectfully requests that the President of the United States act to allow the United States freedom to defend itself from missile attack, Treaties to the contrary not withstanding; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature of New Hampshire conveys to the President and the Congress of the United States that national missile defense requires the deployment of the most robust system consisting of a land-based, sea-based, and space-based multi-layered architecture so that future threats will be adequately met or deterred.