Imagine that you are a police officer in a tough neighborhood where the criminals are heavily armed. You go to a maker of bulletproof vests, who proudly claims that his latest product has passed five of its past eight tests. Somewhat anxious, you ask, "Did three of the bullets go through the vest?" The vest maker looks sheepish: "Well, we didn't actually fire bullets at it. We fired BBs. But don't worry, we're going to keep working on it. And, hey, it's better than nothing, right?"
The faulty vest is roughly analogous to America's unproved system for shooting down nuclear-tipped missiles. Over the next two years the Bush administration plans to deploy 20 ground-based missile interceptors in Alaska and California and 20 sea-based interceptors on U.S. Navy Aegis cruisers. The interceptors are designed to smash into incoming warheads in midflight. Ordinarily, the Department of Defense would be required to fully test the interceptors before installing them in their silos. The Pentagon, however, has asked Congress to waive this requirement. The reason for the rush is North Korea, which is believed to already possess two nuclear devices and is trying to develop intercontinental missiles that could hit the U.S.
This article was originally published with the title Misguided Missile Shield.