Friday, July 18, 2003
NOTE: Nothing in this issue is based on British Intelligence.
1. MISSILE DEFENSE: APS BOOST-PHASE STUDY - IT'S ABOUT TIME.
On Tuesday, the APS held a Washington press conference to release a massive 3-year study of the feasibility
of attacking a ballistic missile while its rockets are still firing - the first layer of the president's
missile defense plan. Rockets may be easy to spot, but even if it's forty-year old technology, boost phase
only lasts four minutes; newer solid-fuel rockets, maybe three. Conclusion? You're not gonna get there in
time. And even if you could, countermeasures are easy. In other words, the best boost-phase interceptor
would be obsolete as soon as it's built. The study's authors studiously declined to draw policy
implications. What's New is under no such constraint. As one physicist who read the report put it, "Even
if it would work it wouldn't work, but it won't work." A week before release of the APS study, the Senate
slashed funding for boost-phase interceptor development.
2. PRIVACY: SENATE DROPS "TERRORISM INFORMATION AWARENESS" (TIA).
A provision in the 2004 Defense Appropriations Act prohibits R&D on the controversial TIA Program ("T"
used to stand for "Total"). The White House urged the Senate to remove the provision, calling TIA "a
potentially important tool in the war on terrorism."
3. MINI-NUKES: THE HOUSE DOES A LITTLE CUTTING TOO.
The House Energy and Water Development Subcommittee unexpectedly denied funding intended to start design
work on small nuclear weapons. As the notorious Nuclear Posture Review made clear (WN
15 Mar 02), the real
goal of mini-nukes is to blur the distinction between conventional and nuclear weapons and hence to lower
the psychological barriers to proliferation. Subcommittee Chair David Hobson (R-OH) did not cite those
problems, making instead the point that we have lots of nuclear weapons already and that it would be worth
our while to maintain the stockpile.
4. WHITE HOUSE: PRESIDENT BUSH IS A HARD MAN TO REACH.
The New York Times reported this morning that e-mailing the President is not a straightforward process. So
we tried it -it took more than half an hour for the most e-literate of the WN staff to navigate through the
various Web forms to send a science-policy comment. We would just like to point out that, while we not only
care what you think about us, you can e-mail us easily at email@example.com.
(Andrew Essin contributed to this issue of What’s New.)