Index The Garwin Archive

09/02/98 Letter R.L. Garwin to Senator Carl Levin re National Missile Defense.

                       Richard L. Garwin
                  Philip D. Reed Senior Fellow
                   for Science and Technology
                  Council on Foreign Relations
                      IBM Fellow Emeritus
                Thomas J. Watson Research Center
                          P.O. Box 218
                Yorktown Heights, NY  10598-0218
                         (914) 945-2555
                      FAX: (914) 945-4419
                INTERNET: RLG2 at

                                             September 2, 1998
                    (Via Email to senator at

  The Honorable Carl Levin
  459 Senate Russell Office Building
  Constitution Avenue, between
    Delaware Ave. and 1st St., NE
  Washington, DC  20510-2202

  Dear Senator Levin:

  When   the  Rumsfeld  Commission  testified  to  the  Select
  Committee on Intelligence on July 29,  I  was  unfortunately
  unable  to  come from California for this important session,
  but I see from my  fellow  Commissioner  Barry M. Blechman's
  letter  to  you  of  August  20  that  you  asked  about the
  implications of our findings for U.S.  defense  and  foreign
  policies.    It  is indeed true that the Rumsfeld Commission
  did not discuss responses to  the  missile  threats  to  the
  United  States that we identified, because we were not asked
  to do so.  Clearly it was not the intent  of  the  Congress,
  which  could  otherwise  well  have  asked the Commission to
  evaluate,  for  instance,  the  proposed  National   Missile
  Defense  program.    But  we could not have done that in six
  months, together with the assessment of the  threat--  which
  was  itself  barely possible in the allotted time, even with
  the hard work of all concerned and the full support  of  the
  intelligence community.

  Nevertheless,  many  of  us  on the Commission have personal
  views.  Mine are derived from years of work for  the  United
  States  government  on  strategic  defense, extending to the
  present day.  My judgement on the advisability of  the  kind
  of  National  Missile  Defense that we are able to deploy is
  perhaps more experienced than Dr. Blechman's, whose  letter,
  in  saying  "As soon as it makes sense technically" may seem
  to assume that the defense can,  in  the  normal  course  of
  events,  be made workable.  As I argued in my brief Op-Ed in
  The New York Times of 07/28/98, it is folly to assume that a
  nation that goes to the expense and  considerable  technical
  achievement of developing long-range missile that can strike
  the  United  States  with  biological agents or with nuclear
  warheads, would not take the relatively easy step of  making
  these  weapons  more  effective  and  of  making  them  less
  susceptible to intercept.   The tools  to  do  so  are  well
  known;  I  published  them  in  several articles more than a
  decade ago  in  the  discussion  of  the  Strategic  Defense

  For biological agents, the military effectiveness is greatly
  increased  by  packaging anthrax, or whatever agent is used,
  in scores of submunitions, released just as soon as the ICBM
  finishes burning at the  start  of  its  flight.    Such  an
  approach would infect many more people than would a half-ton
  package  of  germs  at a single point, and it would have the
  additional merit of being invulnerable to a missile defense.

  As for a nuclear warhead, it is a small task to put it in an
  enclosing balloon-- a lazy, gargantuan air bag--  that  does
  not  hide  the existence of the warhead, but simply conceals
  it somewhere in the vast interior of the  balloon.    Or  20
  smaller   balloons   (one   containing   the  warhead)  will
  predictably exhaust the interceptor supply.

  Nor would  Russia  or  China  be  long  in  equipping  their
  missiles with such effective penetration aids.

  And  the  proposed  National Missile Defense does absolutely
  nothing to counter the more likely and  nearer-term  threats
  of  short-range  ballistic  or cruise missiles launched from
  ships near our shores, from  nuclear  weapons  detonated  on
  ships in our harbors, or from biological agents disseminated
  from  a  car  or truck on a peripheral road upwind of a U.S.

  We should not portray  ourselves  as  helpless  against  the
  long-range  missile threat.  Deterrence did not fail against
  the Soviet Union or China, and it is likely to  work  should
  any  new  nations  secure  missiles  capable of reaching our

  Indeed, should they acquire such a threat, such nations will
  certainly be the focus  of  detailed  plans  for  preemptive
  non-nuclear  strike to prevent their launch.  And the actual
  use of such weapons would result in a massive return  strike
  from the United States.

  In  the case of North Korea, it would be easier to intercept
  ICBMs launched against the  United  States  while  they  are
  still  in  their  boost  phase from that small country.   We
  ought to initiate a joint effort with Russia,  perhaps  with
  an  additional  Ballistic  Missile  Defense  test  range  on
  Russian territory between Vladivostok and the  North  Korean
  border,  supplementing  a  possible  ship-based  boost-phase
  intercept system  on  which  we  could  work  together  with
  Russia.    I  would prefer such joint programs under the ABM
  Treaty  to  a  major  amendment  of  the   Treaty   or   its
  renunciation,  and  they  fit well with new agreements being
  reached between ourselves and Russia  to  advise  Russia  of
  missile launchings.

  The  Rumsfeld Commission Report may have inadvertently given
  rise to the  impression  that,  if  the  missile  threat  is
  nearer-term than otherwise assumed, a missile defense system
  is  more urgently indicated than before.  One way to rectify
  this  unfortunate  misapprehension  is  to   reconvene   the
  Rumsfeld  Commission  with  a related relevant mandate or to
  create a second  Commission.  I  do  believe  that  if  nine
  individuals  of  the  quality  of  those who constituted the
  Rumsfeld Commission were given the task of  studying  for  a
  similar  intensive  six-month  period  the proposed National
  Missile Defense, there would be agreement that it  would  be
  ineffective against the likely threat.

  And  if this is not possible, perhaps a Senate Hearing could
  be held at which my views could be compared with those of my
  fellow Commissioners or others.

  I would be happy to discuss these matters further with you.

  Sincerely yours,

  Richard L. Garwin

     07/28/98  "Keeping Enemy Missiles at Bay," by
       R.L. Garwin, Op-Ed in The New York Times.  (072898OPED)
                             ___ ___ ____ ______

     B.M. Blechman, DC.
     G.L. Butler, NE.
     S.A. Cambone, CSIS.
     S.A. Cambone, CSIS.
     W. Graham, VA.
     D.H. Rumsfeld, IL.
     W. Schneider, VA.
     W. Schneider, VA.
     L.D. Welch, IDA.
     P. Wolfowitz, DC.
     J. Woolsey, DC.