Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Foreign Missile Developments
Statement for the Record by
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss, in an open session, the Intelligence Community's recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the ballistic missile threat to the United States through the year 2015. Following my statement, I will try to answer your questions without providing important information to countries seeking to hide weapons developments from us. Thus, you'll understand that if I cannot answer a question more fully, it's not that I do not want to. In such cases, I could provide a classified answer for the record if you would like.
My Statement for the Record does not cover all the important material published in our recent unclassified paper on this subject. Moreover, in the interest of time I would like to summarize my statement verbally, so I would like to submit both the unclassified paper and my written statement for the record.
Congress has requested that the Intelligence Community produce annual reports on ballistic missile developments worldwide. We produced the first report in March 1998 and an update memorandum in October 1998 on the August North Korean launch of its Taepo Dong-1 space launch vehicle. Our 1999 report is a classified NIE, but we summarized it in the unclassified paper I just mentioned. You have copies of that paper for this hearing.
This year we examined future capabilities for several countries that have or have had ballistic missiles or space launch programs or intentions. Our approach for this year's report differs with past efforts in three major ways.
I should note that our projections are based largely on limited information and engineering judgment. Adding to our uncertainty is that many countries surround their ballistic missile programs with secrecy, and some employ deception. Although some key milestones are difficult to hide, we may miss others, at least until flight testing; recall that we did not know until its launch that North Korea had acquired a third stage for its Taepo Dong-1.
I should also note that we incorporated the results of several expert, academic and contractor efforts, including the recommendations of former members of the Commission to Access the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, assistance from politico-economic experts to help examine future environments that might foster ICBM sales, and the expertise of missile contractors to help postulate potential ICBM configurations others could pursue.
The Evolving Missile Threat in the Current Proliferation Environment
Worldwide ballistic missile proliferation has continued to evolve during the past 18 months. The capabilities of the missiles are growing, a fact underscored by North Korea's Taepo Dong-1 launch. The number of missiles is increasing. Medium- and short-range ballistic missile systems, particularly if armed with weapons of mass destruction, already pose a significant threat to US interests, military forces, and allies overseas. We have seen increased trade and cooperation among countries that have been recipients of missile technologies. Finally, some countries continue to work toward longer-range systems, including ICBMs.
Projecting political and economic developments that could alter the missile threat many years into the future is virtually impossible. The threat facing the United States in the year 2015 will depend on our changing relations with foreign countries, the political situation within those countries, economic factors, and numerous other factors that we cannot predict with confidence.
Understanding the uncertainties, we project that during the next 15 years the United States most likely will face ICBM threats from Russia, China, and North Korea, probably from Iran, and possibly from Iraq. The Russian threat, although significantly reduced, will continue to be the most robust and lethal, considerably more so than that posed by China, and orders of magnitude more than that potentially posed by the others, whose missiles are likely to be fewer in number - probably a few to tens, constrained to smaller payloads, and less reliable and accurate.
The new missile threats confronting the United States are far different from the Cold War threat during the last three decades. During that period, the ballistic missile threat to the United States involved relatively accurate, survivable, and reliable missiles deployed in large numbers. Soviet - and to a much lesser extent Chinese - strategic forces threatened, as they still do, the potential for catastrophic, nation-killing damage. By contrast, the new missile threats involve states with considerably fewer missiles with less accuracy, yield, survivability, reliability, and range-payload capability than the hostile strategic forces we have faced for 30 years. Even so, the new systems are threatening, but in different ways.
Thus, acquiring long-range ballistic missiles armed with a weapon of mass destruction probably will enable weaker countries to do three things that they otherwise might not be able to do: deter, constrain, and harm the United States. To achieve these objectives, the missiles need not be deployed in large numbers; with even a few such weapons, these countries would judge that they had the capability to threaten at least politically significant damage to the United States or its allies. They need not be highly accurate; the ability to target a large urban area is sufficient. They need not be highly reliable, because their strategic value is derived primarily from the implicit or explicit threat of their use, not the near certain outcome of such use. Some of these systems may be intended for their political impact as potential terror weapons, while others may be built to perform more specific military missions, facing the United States with a broad spectrum of motivations, development timelines, and resulting hostile capabilities. In many ways, such weapons are not envisioned at the outset as operational weapons of war, but primarily as strategic weapons of deterrence and coercive diplomacy.
The progress of countries in Asia and the Middle East toward acquiring longer-range ballistic missiles has been dramatically demonstrated over the past 18 months:
Potential ICBM Threats to the United States from Five Countries
Foreign assistance continues to have demonstrable effects on missile advances around the world.
Moreover, changes in the regional and international security environment - in particular, Iran's Shahab-3 missile test and the Indian and Pakistani missile and nuclear tests - probably will fuel missile and WMD interests in the region.
Sales of ICBMs or SLVs, which have inherent ICBM capabilities, could further increase the number of countries that will be able to threaten the United States. North Korea continues to demonstrate a willingness to sell its missiles. Projecting the likelihood of a Russian or Chinese ICBM transfer 15 years into the future is very uncertain, driven in part by unpredictable future economic conditions, how Moscow will perceive its position vis-à-vis the West, and future Russian and Chinese perceptions of US ballistic missile defenses. Nevertheless, we continue to judge it unlikely that Moscow or Beijing would sell a complete ICBM, SLV, or the technologies tantamount to a complete ICBM.
Warning Times and our Ability to Forecast Missile Development and Acquisition
Our ability to provide warning for a particular country is depends highly on our collection capabilities. For some countries, we have relatively large bodies of evidence on which to base our assessments; for others, our knowledge of the programs being pursued is limited. Our monitoring and warning about North Korea's efforts to achieve an ICBM capability constitute an important case study on warning. In 1994, we were able to give five years warning of North Korea's efforts to acquire an ICBM capability. In hindsight, however, we had overestimated that North Korea would begin flight testing the Taepo Dong-1 and Taepo Dong-2 missiles years earlier than turned out to be the case; projected correctly the timing of a North Korean missile with the potential to deliver payloads to the ICBM range of 5,500-km; and underestimated the capabilities of the Taepo Dong-1 by failing to anticipate the use of the third stage.
North Korea demonstrated intercontinental-range booster capabilities roughly on the timetable we projected in 1994, but with a completely unanticipated vehicle configuration. Thus, detecting or suspecting a missile development program and projecting the timing of the emerging threat, although difficult, are easier than forecasting the vehicle's configuration or performance with accuracy. Furthermore, countries practice denial and deception to hide or mask their intentions - for example, testing an ICBM as a space launch vehicle.
We continue to judge that we may not be able to provide much warning if a country purchased an ICBM or if a country already had an SLV capability. Nevertheless, the initiation of an SLV program is an indicator of a potential ICBM program. We also judge that we may not be able to provide much, if any, warning of a forward-based ballistic missile or land-attack cruise missile (LACM) threat to the United States. Moreover, LACM development can draw upon dual-use technologies. We expect to see acquisition of LACMs by many countries to meet regional military requirements.
Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) Conversion.
Nations with SLVs could convert them into ICBMs relatively quickly with little or no chance of detection before the first flight test. Such a conversion would include the development of a reentry vehicle (RV).
Alternative Threats to the United States
Several other means to deliver WMD to the United States have probably been devised, some more reliable than ICBMs that have not completed rigorous testing and validation programs. The goal of an adversary would be to move the weapon within striking distance without a long-range ICBM. Most of these means, however, do not provide the same prestige and degree of deterrence or coercive diplomacy associated with long-range missiles, but they might be the means of choice for terrorists.
Several countries are technically capable of developing a missile-launch mechanism to use from forward-based ships or other platforms to launch SRBMs and MRBMs, or land-attack cruise missiles against the United States. Some countries may develop and deploy a forward-based system during the period of the next 15 years. A short- or medium- range ballistic missile could be launched at the United States from a forward-based sea platform positioned within a few hundred kilometers of US territory. If the attacking country were willing to accept significantly reduced accuracy for the missile, forward-basing on a sea-based platform would not be a major technical hurdle. The reduced accuracy in such a case, however, would probably be better than that of some early ICBMs. A concept similar to a sea-based ballistic missile launch system would be to launch cruise missiles from forward-based platforms. A country could also launch cruise missiles from fighter, bomber, or commercial transport aircraft outside US airspace.
Although non-missile means of delivering weapons of mass destruction do not provide the same prestige or degree of deterrence and coercive diplomacy associated with an ICBM, such options are of significant concern. Countries or non-state actors could pursue non-missile delivery options, most of which:
Foreign non-state actors, including some terrorist or extremist groups, have used, possessed, or are interested in weapons of mass destruction or the materials to build them. Most of these groups have threatened the United States or its interests. We cannot count on obtaining warning of all planned terrorist attacks, despite the high priority we assign to this goal.
Recent trends suggest the likelihood is increasing that a foreign group or individual will conduct a terrorist attack against US interests using chemical agents or toxic industrial chemicals in an attempt to produce a significant number of casualties, damage infrastructure, or create fear among a population. Past terrorist events, such as the World Trade Center bombing and the Aum Shinrikyo chemical attack on the Tokyo subway system, demonstrated the feasibility and willingness to undertake an attack capable of producing massive casualties.
Immediate Theater Missile Threats to US Interests and Allies
The proliferation of MRBMs - driven primarily by North Korean No Dong sales - has created an immediate, serious, and growing threat to US forces, interests, and allies in the Middle East and Asia, and has significantly altered the strategic balances in the regions.
We judge that countries developing missiles view their regional concerns as one of the primary factors in tailoring their programs. They see their short- and medium-range missiles not only as deterrents but also as force-multiplying weapons of war, primarily with conventional weapons but with options for delivering biological, chemical, and eventually nuclear weapons.
Penetration Aids and Countermeasures
We assess that countries developing ballistic missiles would also develop various responses to US theater and national defenses. Russia and China each have developed numerous countermeasures and probably are willing to sell the requisite technologies.
Foreign espionage and other collection efforts are likely to increase. China, for example, has been able to obtain significant nuclear weapons information from espionage, contact with scientists from the United States and other countries, publications and conferences, unauthorized media disclosures, and declassified US weapons information. We assess that China, Iran, and others are targeting US missile information as well.
That concludes my opening statement and I am prepared to take your questions.
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