Defense Act aids Lockheed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Missile defense is the centerpiece of President George Bush's new national security strategy released last week and recent news places Pike County right at the center of the massive research, development and deployment program.

The United States House of Representatives has passed the $400 billion 2004 Defense Authorization Act that includes $1.3 billion in defense spending impacting Southeast Alabama, Congressman Terry Everett, R – Ala., announced Thursday.

Everett, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, secured $342 million in additional funding for Southeast Alabama defense programs, including training and testing at Fort Rucker, new construction at Maxwell-Gunter, new Blackhawk helicopter production at Tallassee and testing of a new anti-missile system to be partially produced at Pike County's Lockheed Martin.

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Randy Stevenson, general manager at Lockheed, was pleased with the news.

"As a site we are pleased with the bill that has been passed and we are pleased with the security of the work that will result from that bill. We appreciate the efforts of Senators Sessions and Shelby and Rep. Everett," he said.

Stevenson said the additional funding will "not necessarily" result in additional hiring, but would sustain current work efforts.

Of particular interest will be the THAAD program, Stevenson said, and facilities are currently being constructed for the manufacture of the intercept missiles.

According to Stevenson, the missiles will be flight-tested somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

"The ongoing war against terrorism and the successfully-fought military operation in Iraq were aided in large part by high-tech smart weaponry like the Hellfire missile produced in Pike County," Everett said. "I am confident that the military will continue to rely on these systems for their exceptional capability to take out the enemy. Indeed, the 2004 Defense Authorization Act includes $235 million for missile systems partially produced at Pike County's Lockheed Martin. The new defense budget also continues plans to read a new anti-missile system for production in Pike County by year's end."

Everett supported the Administration's request for $703 million for the Theater High Altitude Aerial Defense anti-missile system that will ultimately be produced at Lockheed Martin in Pike County. Furthermore, Everett secured an additional $37 million to speed up testing of the new system to ensure that production can begin on time. The THAAD missile program will be tested elsewhere, but the assembly of the new missile system is slated to begin in Pike County by year's end.

Gordon Mitchell, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh who has authored a book and numerous articles on missile defense said that the THAAD program is among the most visible of the national missile defense programs.

"The president just signed a national security presidential directive on missile defense that clarifies what the administration's goals are," Mitchell said. "First is the erasure of the difference between national missile defense and theater missile defense. The administration is looking for a global architecture that would ostensibly protect the United States and our allies."

Mitchell is referring to the directive issued last week by Bush describing his approach to deploying missile defenses and encouraging America's allies to join in the effort. Bush said his objective was to counter enemies around the world who try to use long-range missiles "as tools of extortion and aggression."

Mitchell said the importance of the NMD program being constructed in Pike County is of utmost importance in the new Bush plan.

"THAAD is being looked at to protect Asian allies, particularly Japan, and protect the United States from North Korean missiles," he said. "In terms of the contemporary relevance of THAAD, it's growing, in light of the current crisis in North Korea."

Bush has repeatedly charged nations such as North Korea with using its nuclear and missile programs to try "blackmail."

"What's significant," Mitchell said, "is that it's no longer being discussed as a shield, in terms of protecting the United States, but more in terms of coercive diplomacy. It's just to hedge against the risk of launch against the United States and it's not so important that it actually stop anything. It's just to decrease the risks."

This shift marks a change from previous eras when NMD was thought to be a sort of "force field" against incoming missiles.

"It's a shift from Reagan era when it was to make nuclear weapons completely obsolete and function as an Astrodome-like shield," Mitchell said. "Now it's just an incremental tool to be used in diplomacy."

The other significant development in the area of NMD, Mitchell said, is increased cooperation from Russia.

"Russia has agreed to work with the United States on some missile defense, but has attached some requirements that the U.S. forgo the weaponization of space," he said. "Interceptors like THAAD are more effective against satellites than against missiles. The tests have been good tests of the ability to knock out fixed-orbiting satellites. Some analysts have suggested that the purpose of the NMD program has been less to defend against missiles, than as a covert anti-satellite program designed to solidify American space control."