Tom Roeder / Colorado Springs Gazette – 2008-04-10 23:01:41
COLORADO SPRINGS (April 8, 2008) — Satellites armed with missiles are needed to counter nuclear threats, US Sen. Wayne Allard said Tuesday in Colorado Springs, calling for something akin to the Reagan-era Star Wars program.
Allard, serving out the final months of his term after declining to seek re-election, said the space-based weapons would offer a better defense against missiles in flight.
“It’s important to the longterm security of this country,” said Allard, a Republican who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Defense Department hasn’t seriously pursued an orbiting anti-missile system since 1993, when the Strategic Defense Initiative, proposed 10 years earlier by President Ronald Reagan, was slashed by the Pentagon.
The program, quickly nicknamed “Star Wars,” had deep Colorado ties, with much of the research for the space-based part of the missile shield being done at Schriever Air Force Base.
While the Bush Administration has fielded a ground-based anti-missile system, Allard, during a speech at the National Space Symposium at The Broadmoor, said threats from terrorist groups should force the country to reconsider a space-based option.
Allard said his vision is a system less complex and more easily constructed than the Strategic Defense Initiative, which carried a price tag estimated as high as $1 trillion.
The satellites, he said, would use anti-missile warheads for a “kinetic kill,” a method that is simpler than the laser-armed satellites in some earlier proposals.
“This is definitely not Star Wars,” he said.
Allard said the satellite defense would deter emerging nuclear armed powers while countering the possible threat of ICBM-armed terrorists.
Allard said terrorist groups can launch from virtually any location and don’t have a homeland to threaten with America’s arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles. “It makes more sense than this mutually assured destruction approach,” he said.
He said a satellite-based system would offer a faster response than groundbased anti-missile rockets now in silos at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and in Alaska.
“It’s quicker and more flexible,” he said.
Allard has long been a booster of missile-defense programs. His remarks Tuesday came as senators begin the months-long work of hashing out a defense budget in which the military has asked for $10 million for space-based missile-defense research.
Any proposal to put weapons in space, though, will likely face a tough fight from Democrats in Congress who axed the same $10 million research plan from the 2008 budget.
Anti-missile systems and methods to protect American satellites are hot topics at the Space Symposium where Allard was Tuesday’s keynote speaker.
The four-day event at The Broadmoor has drawn 7,500 participants from military members to aerospace executives.
Tuesday’s sessions included discussions on extending the space shuttle program beyond a planned 2010 shutdown to bridge a gap between the 1970s-era orbiter and a replacement system that’s not due out until 2014.
Boeing executives said the shuttle could keep flying on a limited basis for about $2 billion per year.
Another topic of Colorado interest: The Space Foundation, a Colorado Springs-headquartered organization that sponsors the symposium, estimates that space flight contributes $10 billion per year to the state’s economy. That’s out of $251 billion annually spent worldwide on commercial and government space-related activities, from military satellites, to Global Positioning System terminals in rental cars.
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, PO Box 652, Brunswick, ME 04011. (207) 443-9502