Missile Misses

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      Missile Misses

      An update on our reporting on the troubled and expensive defense system Boeing was developing to protect the U.S. from foreign missile strikes. A timely topic with North Korea recently firing two ballistic missiles in what some see as a message to the Biden administration.

      It was during the Trump administration that a series of missile launches by North Korea’s dictatorship heightened tension and led to an unprecedented meeting between President Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

      Concern about a possible long-range ballistic missile strike emphasized importance of the US having a way to protect its coastline.

      But there has been a persistent problem.

      The Pentagon’s choice of a missile defense shield didn’t work very well. As we reported previously on Full Measure:

      ... For two decades the Pentagon and Boeing have been testing a defense system designed to shoot down incoming nuclear missiles.

      But interceptors failed to destroy their targets in six out of 11 tests - all while Boeing got an incredible amount of tax dollars in bonuses.

      David Willman, is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter at the LA Times who investigated the story.

      Sharyl: "What was in the information that should give the public pause?"

      David Willman: "The best available evidence is that the system is not reliable, cannot be depended on. And in fact, in the flight tests that have been conducted, uh no more than half have hit the target, and these are meticulously scripted for success, flight tests. So, it's a system that taxpayers of the United States have paid in excess of 40 billion dollars for that is nowhere near being reliable."

      Sharyl: "Explain how the bonuses worked. Obviously the contractor wants the system to work, but if they can make it look like it's working better than it is, they get financial rewards?"

      Willman: "The system is all about hitting an enemy missile, and yet the criterion for success is been more broadly defined."

      Sharyl Attkisson: "The criterion for them getting bonuses or financial incentives has loosened, in other words?"

      Willman: "Yes."

      Sharyl: "These are test missiles but what are they shooting at for the tests?"

      Willman: "They're shooting at rockets that are typically launched from the Marshall Islands from Kwajalein, that go up over the Pacific, the we hope empty Pacific, they soar up out of earth's atmosphere. Our interceptor would typically be fired from Vandenberg and would get up into space, three-stage rocket. The final stage is called a kill vehicle, and by that time it's flying four miles per second, and it's doing what it can to hit that enemy missile, that mock warhead, in space at those speeds it's a tremendously difficult thing to do."

      Now, in a surprise move, the Pentagon has removed Boeing from the running to create a new missile defense system. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are left competing in the new effort estimated to cost $12 billion tax dollars.

      As for two missile sites developed by Boeing in California and Alaska, the Pentagon says it is ‘revamping’ the silos.

      Sharyl (on-camera): The cost of the Boeing-led project is estimated to be over $50 billion. Boeing said it was disappointed by the decision to be removed from consideration in the new one.