But what the administration had hoped would be a triumphant achievement is clouded by doubts, even within the Pentagon, about whether a system that is on its way to costing more than $100 billion will work. Several key components have fallen years behind schedule and will not be available until later. Flight tests, plagued by delays, have yet to advance beyond elementary, highly scripted events.But like warnings on Global Warming and mercury pollution, BushCo. has ignored the scientists and pushed on. Apparently they think that as long as they believe the system will work - or maybe they are praying that it works - that all will be well. Besides the science, the administration continues to ignore the fact that there just isn't a credible missile threat to the US today or that the most likely threat remains in areas that they have continued to ignore: border and port security.
The paucity of realistic test data has caused the Pentagon's chief weapons evaluator to conclude that he cannot offer a confident judgment about the system's viability. He estimated its likely effectiveness to be as low as 20 percent.
"A system is being deployed that doesn't have any credible capability," said retired Gen. Eugene Habiger, who headed the U.S. Strategic Command in the mid-1990s. "I cannot recall any military system being deployed in such a manner."Knowing all this, you'd assume that Democrats in Congress would fight for a more rational policy, right?
"We're in this hugely expensive race to build something, but we don't know how much it'll cost in the end or what it'll do," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Armed Services Committee.
An audit by the Government Accountability Office, released in April, cited an absence of reliable, complete baseline estimates of system performance and cost. Without this information, the GAO said, policymakers in the Pentagon and Congress "do not have a full understanding" of the system's overall cost and actual capabilities. The audit concluded that the system being fielded this year remains "largely unproven."
Democratic lawmakers opposed to Bush's program concede the debate has shifted. It is no longer an ideological battle, centered on arms control concerns, over whether to deploy at all. Now, they say, it is a more practical argument over how much to build and how fast.Once again, they've ceded the fight to Republicans and are now just wrangling over details.
"The debate is now about whether or not we continue to press ahead at the full speed we're going, with record amounts of money being spent, despite the fact that there's been no realistic testing," said Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.
There's an old joke that goes something like this:
A rich man, seeing a very beautiful young woman in a bar asks if she'd have sex with him for a million dollars. Intrigued, the woman thinks and then answers, "yes." The rich man then asks if she'd have sex with him for five dollars. Insulted, the woman replies, "what do you think I am?"
The man, chuckling to himself says, "we've already established that, now we're just haggling over the price."