Targeted Spending

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DOD Photo

The Pentagon launches what it calls a "threat-representative target" over the Pacific.

Skeptics of the level of U.S. military spending sometimes like to say “We’re in an arms race – with ourselves!”

In other words, we’ve been known to peddle our fourth-generation fighters like the F-16 and F-18 to so many countries (not to mention those F-14s to Iran) that we had to develop fifth-generation fighters — lest we be outgunned by a former customer.

A twist on that pickle is the business of developing targets to ensure our weapons can destroy whatever it is they’re supposed to destroy. Since some kinds of war – thankfully – are rare, perhaps it makes sense that we test those weapons against targets bought expressly for that purpose.

That, of course, is the only way we can test missile-defense shields like the national ground-based missile-defense system, which has been standing guard at bases in Alaska and California against incoming missiles from North Korea since 2004.

That’s what makes veteran defense reporter Richard H.P. Sia’s new investigation so unnerving. Those targets, he writes over at the Center for Public Integrity, “have failed or malfunctioned at an alarming rate since the 2002 inception of the Missile Defense Agency, which oversees all the development, procurement and testing programs.”

After reading his piece, it sounds like our targets fail about as much as North Korea’s missiles do. But Sia also reports that we’re spending about $1 billion annually on missile-defense testing and targets. It’s a safe bet Kim Jong-un likes the return on his investment.



“If we keep this up, the Americans will soon be broke! What? They already are? In that case, prepare the Taepodong-2 for launch. If the Americans could do it to the Soviets, we can do it to the Americans. Juche!”