Missile defense concerns
We understand Peter Huessy's desire to get a missile defense into service as early as possible, but this cannot justify the deployment of as-yet-unproven capabilities. The issues are significantly more complex than the particular subsystems over which we disagree ("Should we wait for Armageddon?" Letters, Sunday).
An effective missile defense has to incorporate several individual elements that need to be integrated into a working system. Our long-term concern regarding the activities of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and its predecessor organizations Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and Strategic Defense Initiative Organization is that disproportionate attention has been given to the development of the individual components and too little to the overarching integration of those entities into a military system.
The Airborne Laser (ABL) provides a clear example of our concern. The aircraft would be a high-value and easily discernible target that would have to have self-protection or require accompanying aircraft to provide protection. In a time of crisis, the capability would have to be on station 24/7, needing several aircraft for each crisis location. These issues should have been evaluated to ascertain whether the concept would be cost-effective prior to initiating a lengthy development program. It is only at this stage, after the expenditure of billions of dollars, that the current director of MDA has acknowledged that the ABL may not be an affordable component of a military system.
Despite the favorable comments by the House Appropriations Committee in recommending restoration of some of the funding initially withdrawn from ABL and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI), the Congressional Research Service has noted that several unresolved problems remain and that there still is uncertainty within MDA.
Another example is the need to structure a testing program to evaluate the limits of the capability of the whole system. Because of the enormous expense of flight tests, much of the testing is properly undertaken at component level, in ground and in simulation tests. Once these have provided sufficient confidence, the whole system should be exercised in a comprehensive flight-test program. This aspect has been lacking in the MDA development program.
For a system as complex as missile defense incorporating ground, sea and space-based sensors; ground and sea-based interceptors; and a dispersed battle management, command and control system, a designated test bed appears to be an essential precursor to the acceptance of a system into service and the later incorporation of improvements.
Rather than designating the facility in Alaska as the initial deployment of a missile defense system in 2004 — a facility, incidentally, that has not yet been formally designated as operational — it should have been classified as a test bed that would be available in a time of crisis as defense against hostile missiles.
This is not a question of semantics; it is much more important than that. The provision of a test bed would have enabled MDA to proceed with demanding tests that more closely replicated a possible enemy attack. Successful interceptions would enhance confidence and, much more important, partial or total failures could be accepted because the test bed would be there to identify problems and enable improvements to be incorporated. However, the statement that the first elements of a defense had been deployed undermined this freedom to experience test failures. It induced a climate in which tests had to be structured to succeed or indeed postponed until greater confidence could be obtained by other means.
We have no argument with Mr. Huessy regarding the threats we face or on the need for a missile defense. In the past, we have been directly involved and have fully supported the development of several of the subsystems. However, despite the impressive statistics of successful test firings quoted by MDA and repeated by Mr. Huessy, concern still remains that the silo-based missiles used in test firings have not been fully representative of an in-service system.
MAJ. GEN. EUGENE FOX
What's the real frequency, FCC?
On September 11, the terrorists probably weren't counting on first responder communications to fail. Could they today?
By designating additional spectrum in the 700 MHz frequency in part for first responders, the Federal Communications Commission this week took another step toward addressing the interoperability problem. In theory, the frequency will enable all emergency communications devices to be compatible.
Unfortunately, a lot needs to happen before any of this actually helps our nation's police officers, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians.
First, someone must buy the commercial spectrum at auction and begin build out for a new, national network that works everywhere even in rural areas. Wireless equipment manufacturers must then develop new devices that work with the new frequencies, forcing public safety officials to replace much of their existing communications equipment.
At that point, if all goes according to plan, we will have a truly interoperable public safety network.
Will the network be truly ubiquitous? No wireless network is today.
When will manufacturers roll out 700 MHz-compatible surveillance cameras, ECG machines, PDAs and other vital emergency equipment? Someone is working on this, right?
Technology aside, it will also be difficult to get cash-strapped local law enforcement and public safety agencies to pay for a new service and to replace equipment that is already saving lives especially when they have alternatives today. In fact, dozens of communities in the United States have decided not to wait.
They are deploying an interoperability solution that works with current cellular and municipal wireless networks, next generation wireless technologies and the Internet. It is based on open standards, has been proven in the field, is cost-effective, and manufactured by multiple companies (full disclosure: including my own).
This technology will also be compatible with 700 MHz when the new network becomes a reality.
Emergencies happen every day and a large-scale incident can happen at any time. First responders need interoperability today, and they are finding their own solutions in the market.
This doesn't mean the FCC's effort is unimportant, but it certainly won't get us to interoperability this decade.
Terrorists won't wait for us to improve communications before their next attack. America's first responders know better than to wait for the government's interoperability solution.
In Motion Technologies Inc.
Gays, the military and the law
The letter Saturday from Steve Ralls of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network attacked me personally for clarifying the issue of homosexuals in the military ("On repealing 'don't ask, don't tell'"). The Center for Military Readiness has given the law an unofficial but accurate name the Military Personnel Eligibility Act of 1993. Mr. Ralls' intemperate attack is typical of the high-powered public-relations campaign promoting repeal of the 1993 law regarding homosexual conduct, technically identified as Section 654, Title 10.
Mr. Ralls' letter referred to the "'don't ask, don't tell' law." There is no such law. The catchphrase describes a proposal made by President Clinton on July 19, 1993, that Congress considered but rejected with bipartisan, veto-proof votes in both houses. Members recognized the illogic of saying homosexuals could serve in the military as long as they did not say they were homosexual.
"Don't ask, don't tell" also describes convoluted Defense Department enforcement regulations Mr. Clinton imposed on the military that are not consistent with the law Congress actually passed. That statute, which should have been called the Military Personnel Eligibility Act, simply codified regulations in effect since 1981. The only compromise involved allowed Mr. Clinton to drop the question about homosexuality that used to appear on induction forms. The secretary of defense, however, can and should restore the routine inquiry at any time.
President Bush should administratively drop Mr. Clinton's don't ask, don't tell regulations and faithfully enforce the Military Personnel Eligibility Act of 1993. Clarity instead of confusion would eliminate the cost of training and discharging persons who are not eligible for military service. In the meantime, informed people who care about the military will not be misled by personal attacks, skewed polls, faux studies, or unconvincing public relations campaigns funded by homosexual activists.
Center for Military Readiness