Small ICBM deployment-USAF hearing July 1987

Mensa writings (1985-87)

Testimony by Paul Stephens

Reprinted in Mensatana, December 22, 1987
Mensans sometimes wonder how they can use their intelligence for public benefit. Here is an example of how one person responded to an issue of public concern. This testimony was given at a local Environmental Impact Hearing conducted by the US Air Force concerning the deployment of another nuclear weapon system in Montana.

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My name is Paul Stephens. I’m a fourth-generation Montanan whose family has lived in this area since 1883.

Our President claims to want to earn a place in history by successfully negotiating real limitations on nuclear arms. If he does so, those following in the next Administration will find themselves scaling back and dismantling the build-up pro­posed here. This suggests another “boom and bust” cycle, or an experience like Conrad, Montana where construction was begun with the ABM system in the 1970’s.

Dr. Paul F. Walker, Co-director of the Institute for Peace and International Security in Cambridge, Mass, spoke here recently informing us that Malmstrom AFB (and indeed, all land-based ICBM’s) are no longer a vital part of our strategic posture. We’d be better-off without them. All are vulnerable to a first-strike, and this, in turn, limits their function and strategic value to that of a first-strike weapon — something which both sides claim they neither want nor need. They are neither an effective deterrent nor a sure means of retaliation.

The pin­point accuracy of the Midgetman and its use of “penetration aids” also characterizes it as a first-strike weapon — something which should be abhorrent to all Montanans. $50 billion could he used much more effectively elsewhere — even for “defense” purposes. Give the State of Montana the $1 billion which the Air Force will spend here, and I guarantee we will spend the money much more wisely and productively than the Air Force will. Our economy will benefit much more from productive investments than non-productive or destructive ones.

It’s true that our state and national economies are in bad shape, but more missiles will not correct the problems. Indeed, high levels of military spending are a large part of our economic problems. Why, then, are we even considering the deployment of the Midgetman System here in Montana, or anywhere? According to Dr. Walker, it is a political “deal,” a “payoff.” The Air Force wants more MX “Peacekeeper” missiles. But the smaller, more expensive “Midgetman” sounds safer, less threatening. The Scowcroft Commission Report compromises, advocating the deployment of 500 Midgetman and additional MX missiles (which incidently  violates the Salt II Treaty, which limits us to one new missile).

Dr. Walker says that if rationality prevails, the Midgetman will be defeated. Yet, this proposal is for Montana to receive 200-250 Midgetman missiles and 8 MX deployed on railroad cars. The very real “growth possibilities” here amount to turning Montana into a nuclear sponge.

Dr. Walker estimates that our present 200 Minuteman missiles are targeted by 400 or more Soviet nuclear warheads. However, the Midgetman would require that 4000-5000 additional Soviet warheads be targeted here, in order to neutralize this new system. Under these conditions, any sort of nuclear exchange would devastate Montana beyond any recovery.

The U.S. Air Force claims its missiles are fail-safe, and incapable of accidental launch or explosion. Are they equally confident about the Soviet missiles and Soviet precautions against accidents or sabotage? Clearly, the only safe course of action is to build down our nuclear arsenals with the intention of eliminating them entirely, rather than deploying newer and ever more complex systems.

We should point out here that at $50 billion, the proposed Midgetman system is the most expensive strategic weapon system in our history. More importantly, it is three times as expensive per warhead as the MX, Minuteman, or Poseidon systems. It is a criminal economic waste in an era of high budget deficits and drastic cuts in civilian public spending.

Among the few people who claim to be informed about the issue, and who still favor Midgetman deployment here are those who imagine that it will help our local economy. Professor Tom Power of the Economics Department at the University of Montana in Missoula addressed this issue very well in a public radio commentary of June 29, 1987. He says, in part, and I quote:

“In 1980, almost 40% of the Great Falls economic base was the military. Now that percentage will increase, and the economy will suffer every time that peace threatens to break out. Residents will quietly pray that world tensions will remain high; that rabid militarists will remain in control of the White House and Congress, and that the anti-nuke forces will fail miserably. There is something perverse going on when the needs of the local economy corrupt people’s vision in this way.”

Concerning the “boom-bust cycle,” Professor Power says:

“We may gear up for the missiles, and either not have them appear, or have them eliminated after they are deployed. This will put Great Palls in a strange moral and political position. Its residents and politicians will find themselves committed to the arms race, and fearful of any serious arms reduction proposals. The militarization of Great Palls will be nearly complete….

“Between 1970-1985, Great Falls’ population declined by about 2000. Its economic base also declined as the military role declined, primary metals shut down, and agriculture withered. Yet, real per capita income rose by almost a quarter. [We] did almost as well as the rest of the state…. There is nothing seriously wrong with the Great Falls economy that needs fixing. There certainly is nothing so wrong that its worth keeping the arms race going for a little local economic stimulation.

“The spokespersons for the Great Falls business community will not see it this way, of course. To them, any growth is good and stability is always bad. Hopefully, others within the Great Falls community will be a little bit more critical, and will not welcome these missiles as an economic blessing when in fact they are part of a much larger curse that weighs down the entire national economy and threatens ours and our children’s futures.”

It is clear enough to me that our best course is to cancel the Midgetman program immediately, and to seriously negotiate towards complete nuclear disarmament. Montana and the rest of the world will all benefit from the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Paul Stephens July 22, 1987

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