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What is to be done?

Ambassador Henry F. Cooper
Chairman, High Frontier
presented to the Board of Trustees of
The Conservative Caucus Foundation
at it's Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. on January 13, 1997


HOWARD PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor and a privilege to have with us Ambassador Henry Cooper, not simply because of his distinguished career, but because of the important work in which he is engaged. We look forward to Ambassador Cooper's comments about the state of play concerning strategic defense and his recommendations as to how we answer the question: What is to be done? Ambassador, thanks for being with us; we're grateful.


AMBASSADOR HENRY COOPER: Thank you. It's good to be here, Howard. Today, America is totally vulnerable to missile attack by even a single missile. I think the important thing to realize is that this is a politically driven reality, even though we know how to build an affordable defense.


The "how-to" is really the easy part. Those of you who knew Danny Graham know that he advocated space-based defenses and that led to the SDI program in the early 1980s, and that is the most effective defense. Because of the investments in the SDI program, we know how to do it from a practical point of view, and it is also the least expensive defense.


Space-based interceptors could defend the entire United States and, indeed, the entire world so that it could protect our troops when they are stationed abroad as well as friends and allies. If we had the green light to go do it and the resources comparable to what is already being spent on missile defense today, on an annual sense, then we could begin deploying such a defense within four or five years. That's the reality.

We could do it, as I say, for what is being spent today — perhaps even less than is being spent on ground-based — primarily ground-based — ballistic missile defenses: so-called "theater" defenses for our overseas troops.


An alternative to space, and an interim solution — and, I think, an effective architecture is associated with deploying interceptors on board ships. This also gives you a global defense because almost seventy percent of the earth's surface is water. Generally the ocean or seas are between a potential adversary and the United States and friends and allies, wherever they might be. Because we have already invested enormous resources in our Aegis cruisers deployed around the world — about $50 billion — and they're operational and deployed, today — another $2 to $3 billion over the next two to three years would enable interceptors to be deployed in the very near term and they could begin defending the United States, among other places.

 A ship in the Sea of Japan could defend Japan, of course, against launches out of North Korea, but, just as a hunter can shoot the birds on the rise, they could also defend the United States of America against launches toward the United States out of North Korea. Similarly, ships in the Mediterranean Sea, as part of the Sixth Fleet, could defend the United States from launches from North Africa and, in some cases, out of the Middle East. That could be done quickly and relatively inexpensively.


 These cheapest and most effective defenses are not being pursued seriously (and, with great reluctance, I might add, in the case of the Navy programs) because the ABM Treaty blocks sea-based and space-based defenses, secondly, insofar as space systems are concerned, because we have an aversion to the so-called "militarization of space" — a long-standing aversion.

 The ABM Treaty bans sea-based and air-based and space-based defenses of the United States against long-range missiles. It was initiated in 1972 by the Nixon Administration. Henry Kissinger was the principal architect of the treaty — a culmination of negotiations that began in the mid-1960s, late 1960s, by Robert McNamara when he was the Secretary of Defense — and it reflects the idea that America is most safe when, in fact, it is most vulnerable to missile attack and when, also, Russia (or the Soviet Union at that time) is vulnerable to missile attack. The idea was "mutual deterrence" or, as it became to be known "mutual assured destruction", the acronym leading to "MAD" as the title for this theology.


 The idea basically was that neither side would attack the other because the retaliation would lead to the destruction of whoever created the problem. They designed the system under the treaty to prohibit any defense against ballistic missiles in particular. There's no prohibition on defending against aircraft or cruise missiles. On the other hand, because they decided (at least the United States decided) we wouldn't defend against ballistic missiles, we decided also in the late 1960s, on Mr. McNamara's watch, that we would abolish, or tear down, the air defenses that were quite extensive in the country at the time. It was alleged that it didn't make sense to defend aircraft if we weren't going to defend against missiles.


 We became attached to an idea that our security ultimately depended entirely upon deterrence when it came to dealing with the Soviet Union. The ABM Treaty also had a premise that this would lead us to a situation where we could save money, because then we wouldn't have to build as many defenses, and, furthermore, that we wouldn't build up offensive ballistic missiles. It turned out, over the next seventeen to eighteen years, that that was a fallacious assumption. There was, in fact, a major arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union — mostly with the Soviet Union running, I might add, for the greatest part of that period, in building ballistic missiles, several generations of long-range ICBMs, and, I might note, that Russia today continues to modernize its force. So, the idea that we would give up on having a defense against the missiles and therefore you wouldn't need them, turned out to be fallacious.


 It also leaves a very unsafe situation today, in the post-Cold War world, when the weapons that were created during most of that war (at least in Russia) are largely for sale now, and even the missiles that could deliver them can be purchased in the open market.


 It is now clear that deterrence is not entirely reliable — even to the uninitiated, I might say. Anyone who observed that, in the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was trying to provoke Israeli retaliation with his attacks on Tel Aviv and Haifa, understands that the idea that you wouldn't attack because you might receive retaliation doesn't always work. In fact, Hussein turned deterrence on its head and, in that particular war, the availability of the Patriot missile defense system was the thing that frustrated Hussein's strategy, because the Israeli leadership had a visible response to the missiles that were attacking the people there. They were able to restrain what many expected they might have done in retaliating, becoming engaged in the war, and, if they had, splitting the Arab coalition that was aligned against Hussein at the time.

 We now know that deterrence doesn't work. Even Henry Kissinger has disowned the ABM Treaty, and has said that it's nuts to stake your whole strategy for survival on this idea. Yet, the current administration remains wedded to the ABM Treaty, is indeed wedded to the idea it should be strengthened, and that its constraints on defenses for the American people be extended also to limit the defenses of our troops in the field. That is a part of real negotiations now going on.


 Congress is challenging much of this. They want near term defenses for the American people largely focused on ground-based defenses, they support the Navy's so-called "upper tier" defense that I described to you earlier — but primarily as a theater defense, not as a means to defend the United States, and they are not yet on board when it comes to space defenses.

 When I speak of the Congress, I am speaking generically. There are a few in the majority who really understand the important role of space systems. I might note that Bob Smith (R-N.H.), who is the new chairman of the defense authorization subcommittee that deals with these issues, is a strong proponent of space-based defenses. Jon Kyl is probably our most knowledgeable expert on this now — the Senator from Arizona — and there are others up there who support us, but they are in the minority.

 On the militarization of the space front, I would observe a hopeful sign in that the chief of staff in the United States Air Force today is speaking out regarding the importance of U.S. space systems, and I'm delighted to hear him use terms like "superiority" when talking about the objectives of our military forces in space in the future.

 It is generally well understood that, during the Gulf War, much of our success was because of our space systems and what knowledge they provided for targeting purposes and a whole host of things. They enabled a situation which we could watch everything going on, and Saddam Hussein was essentially blind.

 [Gen.] Tony McPeak, who was chief of staff of the Air Force, called it the first space war. In fact, there were no weapons in space, there were no weapons from space, but there were gun sights there.

 It is just a matter of time before friends and foes alike who saw the consequences of the role of space in the Gulf War purchase this kind of capability for themselves, and it is largely available on the world market today. In fact, much of what enabled our forces — and gave us the advantage in the Gulf War — were commercial assets rather than the major military systems that we have purchased over the years.


 Our challenge in the future, as (U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff) General (Ronald) Fogelman says, is to be sure that we can deny the advantage of space to any adversary in a future conflict while retaining it for ourselves. We need to assure that we can control space in the same way we have long understood that it was important to control the sea. These are good words from the military, and I only hope that they will follow through. If they do, then I think this will help open the way for the right kind of defense applications in space.


 Clearly, however, though, we are going to have to overturn attitudes of the last 40 years, which began in the late 1950s, roughly when Sputnik went up and we formed NASA, and the idea was that we are only going to have peaceful activities in space. We seem to forget that the human condition really is fairly at variant in all this: space is a place, and not a mission, per se. Nevertheless, we have written laws, we have treaties, and all sorts of understandings, both internationally and within the United States that stand in the way of fully applying wisdom, or smarts, in space.

 Congress is likely to take at least three actions to focus the debate during this coming year.


 First of all, to look hard at the threat of missile attack to the United States, they formed an independent commission to do sort of a "Team B" as it was called in the late 1970s' assessment of the threat to the United States.

 I am pleased to have been named by Senator Lott and Speaker Gingrich to this commission. There will be nine members: six, as I understand it, from the majority, and three from the minority. Don Rumsfeld (who is probably to chair it), Malcolm Wallop (who, if you know about missile defense, was our principal advocate up there, will be a member), Jim Woolsey (who is Mr. Clinton's first director of the CIA, but who has been an outspoken critic of the administration's assessment of the threat, will also be on the committee), Bill Schneider (who was an UnderSecretary of State during the Reagan Administration), and, I think, Larry Welch (who is a former chief of staff of the Air Force), rounds out the six from the majority — I don't know who the minority members will be.

 In any case, this group will focus and, presumably, will have access to all of the classified information so that we can address the Russian, Chinese, and rogue threat when it comes to ballistic missile attack on the United States.


 One of the areas I'm going to push very hard to be looked at is the way missiles can disperse their warheads very early in flight — "clustered submunitions" is the technical term for this when it comes to chemical weapons — so, when the missile is rising, it disperses the warhead and you have many, many targets to defeat in order to defeat the ballistic missile. In the case of the ICBM, it was called MIRV (multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles).

 It is a great challenge to missile defense if you build only the kind that are being pursued by the administration, namely, ground-based or terminal defenses that try to hit missiles when they are coming in. By then, you have many targets to deal with. The correct way to defeat such a countermeasure is with a "boost phase intercept" where you destroy the missile when it is first rising, and, of course, the best way to do that is from space.

One of the reasons why I will press that we look hard at this kind of threat is because even the administration now has acknowledged, through its Defense Science Board, the reality of the technology that makes this a rather easy measure for those who are building missiles to take.

 The second front that I expect the Congress to push on, is that we need to move on, as quickly as possible, to build a national missile defense for the United States.

 And, thirdly, I believe the whole arms control agenda will come under pressure this year — whether we will succeed or not, I don't know. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has already begun to hold hearings on the ABM Treaty. I testified late last year, along with Bill Graham (who was the science advisor for President Reagan) on the difficulties and costs associated with that treaty.

 The Chemical Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, both of those treaties will be up for ratification hearings and debate, and I expect that they will both receive a great challenge from our friends on the Hill. START II has been ratified, but it continues to be in trouble and you can anticipate a lot of debate on that, too.


 In all cases, I would hope that our friends in Congress will try to demonstrate the cost side of the arms control equation and how deceptively little are the gains that we have gotten in the past from these treaties and are likely to get in the future.


 Meanwhile, I would note that the technology marches on, and now that the commercial sector (entirely to turn a profit) is pushing the key technologies ahead that were the focus of much of the SDI program.

 Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, and Craig McCaw, who had a cellular phone business, among other things, formed a company called Teledesic — they're talking about using their own capital and others that they raise to deploy a system of 840 satellites in low earth orbit, primarily for communications and that kind of networking, but they are using "brilliant pebbles" technology, which was the space-based interceptor that we pursued and, indeed, almost the identical architecture that we were pursuing under SDI.

 Motorola is building a system called Iridium — in fact, they were supposed to have launched a day or so ago and it was held back because of some kind of problem.

 TRW is building Odyssey, Loral is building Goldstar — there's a little company by the name of Earthwatch backed by venture capital entirely — they got the first license for remote-sensing business worldwide. The fellow who is the principal there was the chief engineer on the "brilliant pebbles" program.

 All of these activities are being done by industry, using their own capital and what they raise. There's no government money associated with the program because to go to the government would mean to slow them down. So the march of technology at this point, I believe, is being carried by the commercial sector.

 In the civil sector, you may have heard of a program by the name of "Clementine". It was the first time we went back to the moon in 25 years (a couple of years ago). It's perhaps a cute story I'll end with in my discussion (it's in one of the papers I gave you: Oh My Darling Clementine).


 In 1991, there was a Missile Defense Act which, for the first time, gave us a mandate to build a defense for the country. It was bipartisan. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and John Warner (R-Va.), and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Senator Inouye (D-Hawaii) were all in a bunker in Tel Aviv when some SCUDS came in. They were duly impressed and they came home after that, in early 1991, and were the principals behind an act that said we should build a defense for the country as quickly as possible. That was the good news. They, because of the conditions I described to you earlier, said it really should be ground-based, and it should start with a treaty-compliant site, but you can have a robust program to continue to work on base systems.

 I was very apprehensive of this. I didn't trust the Congress, I guess, is the most direct way to say it, that they would long remember what they charged me with — and, at this time, if you don't know, I was the director of the SDI program — and so I called in several of my assistants and said I want to invent a program which will demonstrate the hardware that we have been pursuing on brilliant pebbles just in case the Congress reneges on its promise to support a robust program, and I want this program to be liked by even our most severe critics — I want them to become advocates.


 So, what was done was to invent a program in which we first went back to the moon, and we mapped it using the sensor sweeps from the "brilliant pebbles". It was then to swing back by the earth, go into deep space and be lost and gone forever — hence the name "Clementine".

 Within in two years of that meeting in my office, and after spending about $75 million, we launched the program, the space vehicle. It did, indeed, go to the moon, it successfully mapped it — there are some two million frames of data you can find on the Internet now from it, they won awards from NASA, from the National Academy of Sciences, and even people who had been strongly opposed to the SDI (Star Wars as they called it over the years) sang the merits of Clementine.

 The point in telling the story is there's no question but that the technology is mature to build the kinds of space systems that are needed. That literally was a demonstration of first generation "brilliant pebbles" hardware in space, and it worked very well indeed. So the technology is mature, and the political will is the issue, and I hope that folks like yourselves in the room can help us deal with this side of the equation.

 HOWARD PHILLIPS: Ambassador, thank you very much for that succinct and comprehensive presentation. I was glad to hear your comment at the end about political will, because that really has been the issue all of these years. One of the things which really frustrated me during the Reagan years and the Bush years (and, of course, during the Clinton years) is the unwillingness to break out of reliance on arms control treaties as the predicate for U.S. defense, and the unwillingness to do the simple thing of breaking out of the ABM treaty.

 The same people today who are saying that they want to get out of ABM said the same thing then, with the exception particularly of Senator Wallop, who was always very forthright and courageous in the way he fought this. But I don't have that much confidence that the leaders of either major party, with some exceptions — maybe Jon Kyl, maybe some others — are going to stand up to a President (whoever it is) who is caught up in this arms control mentality and say: No, we must get out of the ABM treaty.

 What can we do? Is there any encouragement you see on that front?


 AMBASSADOR COOPER: Well, hopefully, Senator Helms is going to follow through with what he promised, and we are going to have hearings on the subject so that we can at least put out and make clear what the costs of the treaty are. I am hopeful that when Senators understand that they are paying perhaps ten times as much for defenses that won't work, as the ones they could have in space that would work, that maybe they'll think again. Maybe the pocketbook issue will be one that they will pay attention to.

 On the other side working against us will be this concern about arms control that you raise, and specifically START II, where the Russians will claim, I am sure, that we insist on going down this route of defending ourselves in any case, then they won't ratify START II. The fact is they claim they wouldn't ratify START II for this reason because of the possibility of NATO expansion, because they couldn't afford it, and a host of other things — conventional problems in Europe as well was another excuse they have used. It is a potent argument to many on Capitol Hill, as you said, and that will be our difficulty.

 I am afraid that you may be correct. Without the Executive Branch, it may be not possible to get out of the treaty, but, at a minimum, I hope we can stop the administration from its rush to even make the treaty more onerous. Unfortunately, that is their agenda — it is their stated agenda.

 HOWARD PHILLIPS: One of my fears is that, as this goes on and on and on without results, our base of popular support will be eroded. What can we show the public, in terms of accomplishment, for the money spent so far?

 GENERAL ROBERTS: Well, the one that Ambassador Cooper has been talking about, Clementine, is a doggone good example of it, and I don't think the public is aware of that at all. At the time that it circled the moon, there was some publicity, but that comes and goes. We ought to use that as definitely one item that represents the additional money spent.


 HOWARD PHILLIPS: How much has been spent so far from conception, from the time of Reagan's 1983 speech? How much has been spent?

 AMBASSADOR COOPER: $40 billion, on that order.

 HOWARD PHILLIPS: If someone were asking you on Meet the Press, what have we got to show for it? What would your answer be?

 AMBASSADOR COOPER: At this point, unexploited technology in the main. There are serious development programs for THAAD — theater defense, theater high altitude area defense is what the acronym stands for. But, as I tried to point out, industry is getting the benefit. They're going to go make money, and, hopefully, with the progression of technologies and even what they build, the military of the country will eventually benefit.

 Here recently, you may have read the press reports about water on the South Pole of the moon, it was Clementine data. I think we can point to that, to the technology that has been developed, but unfortunately we can't really point to defense for the country, and I think we have to put the spotlight on where the real problem is, which is the political side of this equation — it's not the technology.

 HOWARD PHILLIPS: General Knight.

 BRIG. GENERAL ALBION KNIGHT: I was very encouraged to hear you say that we could deploy with existing technology, but I know from my own experience that Malcolm Wallop was correct, and so was Angelo Codevilla, saying that it was never intended that you do any more than just use it as a scientific slush fund to keep development, but never deploy. It would seem to me to be a big break to be able to say: And we can do it now. With the concept of deploying as a sideline to that, I was interested in Caspar Weinberger's new book in which almost every one of his scenarios, and one particular one using the "brilliant pebbles" technique taking two years to get it up, but every one of them was showing our vulnerability to missile attack. And that's been getting some play.

 Have you gotten any feedback from that type of effort that Weinberger has done? Or, and my first question, is there still this tendency to research, but not deploy, within the military and within the industry?


 AMBASSADOR COOPER: Yes. Well, I think — well, I'm not sure it's a fair hit on industry, or the military for that matter. The military in the main opposed the SDI program on budgetary grounds for many years. That has changed. The Navy is very supportive, and the Air Force leadership, at this point, as I tried to mention to you, is quite supportive because they see a future role now in space for the military.

 You're absolutely correct. Trying to figure out how to break through this barrier that was imposed: that it was research that we were doing. Originally, you know, I was in Geneva, and part of the argument that was foist upon us there was to say, well, you shouldn't be threatened by this program because, after all, it's only research. There's a lot of that.

 One of the reasons that I have been a strong proponent of the Navy program that I mentioned here, not only because it's a good idea, but because it is so cheap. How in the world do you say: We don't want to spend 5% of what we already have invested in a fully deployed system already around the world that could be operational in two to three years. That's one year's budget of what BMDO is spending right now. It makes it very plain that why they don't want to do it is because of the ABM Treaty.


At the same time, Congress is up there looking at this, scratching their heads about money for this and money for that — after awhile, I think that would begin to register. What they are doing now is to go ahead with this program, but, because of these treaty concerns, they're "dumbing it down" is the term we use.

 They are not permitting the interceptors to fully exploit data from radar and other sensors that are remote to the ship from which the interceptors are deployed, and that's an arbitrary constraint that's being placed on the system. We just have to keep the light on that in front of the Congress and all the rest so that people understand and, hopefully, eventually, the American people understand that the restraints that are being put on our defenses are arbitrary, they are because of this treaty, and because of a "theology" — I don't know what else to call it — that says we are most safe when we're most vulnerable. The average guy in the street that I know would have a tough time...

LINDA BEAN FOLKERS: Being from Maine, I've watched (Bill Clinton's Defense Secretary) Bill Cohen resist the deployment expenditure in the Senate for years, and yet, I've seen him also advocating strongly for increased funding for our Aegis destroyers.

AMBASSADOR COOPER: Cohen was the Senator who was the go-between in the Missile Defense Act of 1991 that I referred to earlier in getting both Democrats and Republicans, a majority at that time, to sign on and support the act. When it comes to doing it in space, as opposed to doing it on the ground, I think we probably will lose him.

GENERAL ROBERTS: He's for the Aegis program, because of Bath Iron Works (in Maine).

AMBASSADOR COOPER: Right. But the Aegis — he has supported money, advocated money be added to the budget request from the President the last two years on the Navy program. It is being pursued now because of Congressional support and direction, in law, and the administration has resisted it. I might say, this past year, there were six independent reviews of the program. You know, that's what you do when you want to slow things down: you review it. Every one of the reviews came out, they couldn't find any fault with the program. More than that, a couple of them that were done for the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs said that it is more important than any other program you are doing — it should be the top priority program.

So, it's now going to go ahead, but in a way that is restrained, as I was describing earlier. It's not going to be built to be as capable as it could be built. It's going to be built so that it can't reach out as far as the system, inherently, is capable.

LINDA BEAN FOLKERS: I understand that there is a problem, though, let's say in installing it on the Aegis destroyers around the world because of this ABM Treaty? We still have that problem?


GENERAL ROBERTS: Yes. The upper tier. However, they are talking out of both sides of their mouths at the Pentagon, I called that office and I asked them if they were going to do much with the upper tier system, and the guy said: "Yes, we're going to put a little more money in that because we think it's the way to go." And I said, well, what about the ABM Treaty? "Oh, oh, the ABM Treaty. Well, what we're going to do is treaty compliant, but, it can be turned around."

AMBASSADOR COOPER: What they are doing (and this is no exaggeration) is that they want to design a system such that that ship in the Sea of Japan I was telling you about, can intercept a missile if it goes to Tokyo out of North Korea, but not if it goes to Seattle. That's what they are doing. They are trying to design a system that can defend our allies, but not Americans.

About Ambassador Henry F. Cooper

 Late last year, Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization in the Bush Administration, agreed with Gen. Graham to chair High Frontier's Board of Directors. He has served on High Frontier's Board for three years. Along with Brig. Gen. Robert Richardson and Maj. Gen. J. Milnor Roberts, he will steer High Frontier on a course to fulfill Gen. Graham's vision.

Like Gen. Graham, Ambassador Cooper has had a long and distinguished career in service to his country. Prior to becoming SDIO's first civilian director, he conducted a major independent review of the SDI program and related policy issues for Defense Secretary Dick Cheney — the results of which were instrumental in reversing the SDI funding cuts a Democratic-controlled Congress had mandated in the preceding several years. Previously he was President Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks, successfully defending SDI in these negotiations with the now-defunct Soviet Union.

Ambassador Cooper also led the development of President Reagan's space arms control policy, while serving as Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; and, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force earlier in the Reagan administration, he helped institute the 1981 Strategic Modernization Program. Much earlier in his career, he was Scientific Advisor at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory, now Phillips Laboratory, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

He is also Chairman of Applied Research Associates, Senior Associate of the National Institute for Public Policy, and a Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Previously in the private sector, he was Senior Vice President of Jaycor, Deputy Director of the Nuclear Weapons Effects Division at R&D Associates, member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories, and an instructor at Clemson University.

Author of over 100 technical and policy publications, Ambassador Cooper holds a Ph.D. from New York University, and BS and MS degrees from Clemson University — all in mechanical engineering. He and his wife, Bobbye, have two daughters, Laura and Cynthia, a son, Scott, and eight grandchildren.

As a respected engineer, program manager, and negotiator who understands technology and its policy ramifications, he brings both technical and political savvy to High Frontier. Though it is a sad time for High Frontier, we are pleased that Ambassador Cooper will be helping us continue Gen. Graham's legacy.

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