APS News

October 2003 (Volume 12, Number 10)

Media Give Widespread Coverage to APS Missile-Defense Study

As reported last month in APS News, in July the APS released its long-awaited study on boost-phase missile defense. Media coverage of the report was both broad and long-lasting. Some excerpts from that coverage follow.


An extensive study by a national group of scientists raised serious doubts yesterday about the likely effectiveness of some weapons that President Bush is pursuing in his drive to develop a system for defending the United States against ballistic missile attack.

Washington Post, July 16



Timing is the fatal flaw in long-range missile defences that target ballistic missiles during their vulnerable launch phase, says a report from the American Physical Society.

New Scientist, July 15



A key component of the US National Missile Defense plan is a pipe dream, according to a new study by the American Physical Society.


"The objective [of the report] was to let you draw your own conclusions," says former APS president William Brinkman. "But the conclusions are fairly clear to anyone who wants to look.

ScienceNOW, July 15


The report may not change many minds on this partisan topic, but it will inform the debate over whether to catch missiles as they take off, says Philip Coyle, senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information in Washington DC. "This study is the first honest-to-God assessment of what's scientifically possible," he says.

Nature, July 17



Coyle says scientists in the Missile Defense Agency never talk about these difficulties publicly. They refused to again today. The agency issued only a short three-sentence statement. It said a review of boost phase will be done in September. It concluded, quote, "We continue to believe that boost phase technology has great potential for playing a vital role in a layered missile defense."

David Kestenbaum, National Public Radio, July 16



It's unlikely, however, that such findings will slow the administration's push to deploy this and related missile defense systems. For it has pursued missile defense with the same disregard for allies, facts and predictions of trouble that it has the rest of its foreign policy.

The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), July 18 (Editorial)



"MDA is confident we are headed in the right direction," the agency said in a statement. "We continue to believe that boost-phase technology has great potential for playing a vital role in a layered missile defense."

Aerospace Daily, July 18



The Missile Defense Agency, or MDA, which has been examining concepts for boost-phase intercept for more than a decade, said in a statement it has not had the time to "digest" the study. ? "We're in the process right now of beginning to look into that [study] ourselves," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Patrick Caruana, vice president of Missile Defense for Northrop Grumman at a briefing Wednesday. "I will tell you, as an example, the Missile Defense Agency is going to look at that study in a lot more detail and provide a solution."


The Missile Defense Agency spokesman said in a statement the agency is "confident we are headed in the right direction. There will be another assessment of boost-phase viability in December of this year, before any investments are made in a development activity."

Defense Week, July 28



India's hope of acquiring an effective defensive umbrella from the US could be folded as experts feel there is a "fatal flaw" in the long range missile defense system.

The Times of India, August 6



It may be no coincidence that the Pentagon suspended work on BPI shortly after the release of a massive, technically detailed study by the American Physical Society-one of the world's preeminent physics organizations-which concludes that boost-phase intercept is a lot more complicated than anyone has previously grasped.

Slate, August 7



Three weeks ago, the Pentagon quietly announced that it has suspended the space-based intercept component of their National Missile Defence (NMD) program due to technological difficulties....It's surely no coincidence that the suspension was announced shortly after the release of a damning study on NMD by the American Physical Society, the professional association for US physicists. The authors focused only on the science and technological feasibility of NMD, leaving the policy and politics to others.

Toronto Globe & Mail, August 22

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette

October 2003 (Volume 12, Number 10)

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Articles in this Issue
Richter argues for DOE's Office of Science Before Senate Committee
Here Comes the World Year of Physics
U.S. Team Wins Top Honors at 34th International Physics Olympiad
APS Sponsors Second Conference on Opportunities for Physicists in Biology
APS, AAS, AMS Honor Three with 2003 Public Service Awards
Media Give Widespread Coverage to APS Missile-Defense Study
HEPAP Meeting Emphasizes Prioritizing Large Scale Facilities
Playing with Sand Helps Scientists Study Earthquakes
Research Corporation Helps Young Scientists Get Going
The Back Page
Members in the Media
This Month in Physics History
Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science
Inside the Beltway: A Washington Analysis