Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Should've Upgraded to "Deluxe" Missile Defense System

For just an extra $2.5 billion, you could've gotten the waterproofing and the clear coat protectant.

Okay. Now this is fucking stupid.
Rain KO'd Interceptors During Korea Missile Tests (Updated)

Torrential rains wiped out a quarter of the U.S.' intercontinental ballistic missile interceptor silos in Ft. Greely, Alaska last summer -- right when North Korea was preparing to carry out an advanced missile launch, according to documents obtained by the Project On Government Oversight.

"The flooding occurred during a three-week period between the end of June and early July 2006," POGO notes, in a statement. "The flooding damaged 25% of the U.S. interceptor missiles’ launch capability. These silos house the interceptor missiles that would be used to attempt to intercept a missile aimed at the United States. No interceptors were in the flooded silos."

An internal assessment by Boeing, the silos' chief contractor, shows seven flooded interceptor silos, out of the 26 at Ft. Greely. Two silos have more than 62 feet of water; a third has more than 50. Estimated times of repair range from four to 14 months. Boxcar like structures called Silo Interface Vaults (SIVs), adjacent to the interceptor silos, were also flooded, "two of them by as much as 15 feet of water," POGO says. "Three SIVs must have all electronic and mechanical systems replaced. Four other SIVs have partial damage. One SIV was so damaged that it shifted vertically in the ground like a house shifting off its foundation." It's a strange turn of events, considering "an environmental impact study of the facilities at Ft. Greely notes there is 'little rainfall in the region.'"

The "water intrusion... resulted from the confluence of several unanticipated and highly unlikely events," the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement . "In particular, totally unprecedented rainfall created a rapidly rising ground water condition coincident with steps of construction when the SIVs were susceptible to damage. The Missile Defense Agency allocated resources to repair the damage and recover from the event. Furthermore, steps have been taken to prevent recurrences in the future."

POGO blames Boeing for being "at least partly responsible for failing to protect the silos" from the elements. Nevertheless, the watchdog group observes, the company "will most likely still receive an estimated $38 million to repair the silos and a $100 million no-bid contract to build more silos. Boeing would also receive a $7 million award fee added to the contract."

But the larger issue at work here is: What exactly are we getting, for the $9 billion a year we're paying for missile defense? And why can't it take a little (ok, a whole bunch of) rain?

UPDATE: "This isn't the first problem that they had with the missile silos," notes Center for Defense Information missile guru Victoria Samson. "The February 2005 test failure of the GMD [ground midcourse defense] system [at Ft. Greely] was due to faulty silo arms that failed because they weren't able to handle the heavily salty environment in which they were placed, so Boeing had to pull them out and replace them. That's some real quality control work there. This also shows that the whole argument behind spiral development - that you can test and develop at the same time - turns out to be completely wrong."
One thing I kind of miss about the military is the way they can euphemize just about anything. Next time your house gets flooded, call the insurance company and tell them you've had a "water intrusion." Shit, you could probably get the local news to do a feature on you if you used a phrase like that.

So is this missile defense deal anything more than a giant taxpayer giveaway to Boeing? This system has screwed up just about every test, even the ones that were heavily rigged in its favor.

And it ain't cheap, either.

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