Trouble With Star Wars?

Critics Say The Missile Defense System Is Flawed

The U.S. Defense Department has spent tens of billions of dollars trying to create an effective missile defense system. It is believed that a rocket carrying a nuclear or germ warhead could be shot at the United States within the next five years by North Korea or Iran.

60 Minutes II gained unprecedented access to the Pentagon's latest test of its new missile defense system - a system some prominent critics say is fatally flawed and whose development is riddled with fraud. Dan Rather reports that the Defense Department has made little progress in developing a system that could counter a missile attack.

Rather conducted an exclusive interview with Lieutenant General Ron Kadish, whose job it is to stop such a missile from reaching America. In their first television interviews, two former employees of a major defense contractor involved in the development of the technology said that the U.S. government has been covering up what they consider to be the system's fatal flaws.

The Pentagon's secret weapon against a foreign missile attack on the United States, called a "kill vehicle," is a device launched from a rocket high above the Earth's surface. The kill vehicle is supposed to find and destroy the incoming enemy warhead even when surrounded by decoys. Critics who claim that basic technology is flawed said the tests were manipulated to make it appear that the system works.

While working at the major defense contractor TRW, Nira Schwartz, who holds a doctorate in physics and engineering, tested the computer programs used on the missile defense system. Schwartz, who is now suing TRW, said she was fired by the company after suggesting to her superiors that TRW was lying to the government about its test results. "I did more and more tests, which confirmed that the technology does not work and will not work with the technology of today," said Schwartz.

Roy Danchick, a mathematician who worked at TRW for 16 years, was asked by the
Pentagon to help investigate charges that the company knowingly covered up its failure. "My final conclusion was that these guys had failed," Danchick said. "It is not a crime in the research and development process to build...a failed computer program. That's part of the process. What is a crime is to claim that a failed computer program actually works, does the job. That's fraud....That's exactly what we're dealing with here."

Ted Postol, a physicist, MIT professor and former U.S. Navy scientist, believes the defense contractor and the Defense Department had known for years that the missile defense system could not and will not work. He accuses both the contractors and the Pentagon with fraud.

"When I talk fraud, I'm being careful about the use of the word," said Postol. "I'm not saying that there are people who have made a mistake and I disagree with them. I'm saying that there are people who know that this system will no work and are trying to cover it up....So I am making a serious charge."