We should, as Smith says, restore normal test and procurement procedures to these programs. All weapon systems, including anti-missile systems, must be rigorously tested under battlefield conditions before they are given to the troops or deployed in protection of the nation. The current strategy of deployment without realistic tests risks commanders committing troops to battle believing they have protection when they do not, or committing the nation to a course of action believing there are defense options when there are not.
We should produce an integrated, objective threat assessment. The threat from ballistic missiles should be evaluated in its entirety and in the context of all threats to the United States. Efforts to cherry-pick intelligence to support a particular point of view or to commit funding on mere speculation or threat exaggeration should be rebuffed.
We need an independent technological assessment. Congress should request an independent organization review of the progress and prospects of the various proposed anti-missile technologies. A 1987 report by the American Physical Society (APS) helped refocus the Star Wars program with its detailed assessment that the feasibility of directed energy weapons would not be known for at least two decades. A similar study by the APS on current systems could greatly inform Congressional oversight.
Finally, we have to restore fiscal discipline. Pending these recommended reviews, the budgets for anti-missile systems should be concentrated on deploying capable systems against the short- and medium-range threats confronting American troops and allies. Funding for defenses against long-range threats should focus on research and development. No funding should be allocated to systems that have not proven their operational capability. Contractors should not be rewarded for failure.
A little common sense could go a long way on missile defense. We are not going to see it from this administration, but it is not too soon to plan for the next.
Joe Cirincione is president of Ploughshares Fund, and MSNBC nuclear security expert and a former member of the International Security Advisory Board to the Secretary of State.