I spent 27 years in the U.S. Air Force and if there is one thing I learned it was not to open your mouth when you know nothing about the subject at hand. For instance I would never make a statement like, “We need to cut back on the amount of hydraulic fluid we put into tanks to reduce the weight so that we can be more fuel efficient.” I know little about tank fuel economy and even less about tank engine mechanics. I do not profess to be knowledgeable about how much savings this would produce or if it would even be feasible to do. So naturally when I hear someone make a declarative statement, I assume they know what they are talking about.
With this in mind I was extremely surprised when, as a candidate, President- elect BarackObama said: “I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems,” and “I will negotiate with to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals.” I never realized that the junior senator from had the knowledge and expertise to know which missile defense systems were unproven, which ones were worthy of investment and how the alert system for our nuclear arsenals worked.
Too often in an effort to make political points our leaders will make a remark that they think will garner them votes, only to have to back-pedal when their bluff is called. Obama has already started slowing those pedals and will soon be going in full reverse. In a later statement Obama said, “If we can responsibly deploy missile defenses that would protect us and our allies we should – but only when the system works. We need to make sure any missile defense system would be effective before deployment.”
This sure leaves him a lot of wiggle room. When does the system work? Who says it works? Does he think that the U.S. Department of Defense makes random decisions on when to deploy a weapon system? DoD and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) have said rather unequivocally that the system is capable of shooting down an incoming warhead. In fact we have already deployed operational ground-based interceptors at , equipped and deployed the Aegis cruiser and the Sea Based X-band Radar, and we have seen first light of the controversial Airborne Laser and have had numerous successful tests. On , MDA even took an enormous risk and used the system to shoot down a decaying satellite. Soldiers are sitting on alert today at Fort Greely, Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and have been for sometime now.
So will Obama listen to the folks who are currently operating, maintaining and testing the system, or will he cave to special interests and the far left and leave the nation undefended yet again to a growing threat? With regards to our nuclear arsenal being on “hair-trigger alert,” how would Obama like our nuclear weapons to be postured? I spent a number of years as a Minuteman 2 and 3 launch officer and understand well why we have to be prepared to launch on a moment’s notice. Did Obama consult with any nuclear policy experts before making this statement? Does he realize these are the last chance option, that if we are to need these destructive weapons he will only have minutes to weigh his options, decide on a course of action, implement that action and have that message passed to the launch crews? Has he considered there are very good reasons why our nuclear arsenal is on “hair-trigger” alert, or is he just pandering to the anti-nuclear left?
Change is never good for change’s sake. There are well thought out plans and policies that have been tested in peace and war. I think it would be much wiser and safer for all if Obama would first take a look at the history behind the philosophy and operational policies before he defines the changes he wants to make in our missile defense and nuclear programs.
Andy Fowkes is a retired Air Force colonel. He was involved in developing the national strategy for the current missile defense system as the chief of plans/integrated missile defense for Space Command and Strategic Command.