`Star Wars' Termed Possible in 1990s
Head of Program Details SDI at K-School
The Pentagon official heading the Reagan Administration's "Star Wars" program told a Kennedy School of Government audience last night that the proposed space-based defense against ballistic missiles could be deployed in the "mid to late" 1990s.
"Too many people think this is just a group of scientists drawing on a blackboard saying 'yes, this is possible,'" Air Force Lt. General James A. Abrahamson said at an Institute of Politics Forum. "Chunks of progress are being made and the chunks are starting to add up."
The general said that there was "increased confidence" among researchers that the project "can be done technically in a way that the nation can afford."
Abrahamson, who formerly served as associate administrator of NASA in charge of Space Shuttle operations, echoed President Reagan's support of the Strategic Defense Initiative as a means of increasing international stability.
"The real objective is not to put weapons in space. It is to find a strategy that will truly be a better way of preventing war," he said.
Opponents of the Star Wars project have argued that it will increase the possibility of a Soviet first strike because Kremlin decision-makers will fear that an invulnerable U.S. will be less hesitant to use its nuclear weapons.
But the MIT graduate disagreed with that theory, saying the current nuclear balance of power is inherently unstable because it relies on a "concept of retaliation" in which U.S. security depends on its ability to respond to a Soviet first strike.
Analysis of Soviet doctrine shows that theirstrategy is based on a first strike to "destroy asignificant proportion of our ability to strikeback," Abrahamson said. He added that the goal ofthe 1972 Antiballistic Missile treaty--to promotestability by reducing offensive nuclear weaponsand limiting defenses--had failed.
The Soviets continued to research and developdefense systems and meaningful offensivereductions have not been achieved, Abrahamsonsaid.
Though he acknowledged criticism that theongoing research program he heads may neverproduce an impenetrable space-based shield,Abrahamson stood firm.
"I don't understand the logic that unless it'sperfect it's useless," Abrahamson said, addingthat it was far better to be struck by oneballistic missile than 8,000. "There is no finaltechnical solution. The final solution is a humansolution, but we are not yet ready for that," hesaid.
Technical research is focusing on developmentof an array of potential systems including lasers,satellite "eyes," infrared detectors, and a"neutral particle beam weapon" which fires streamsof hydrogen atoms through space, he said.
Abrahamson said much of the research is basedon developing compact systems that will berelatively inexpensive compared to presenttechnology. He said that among the scientificbreakthroughs associated with the research is thedevelopment of "gallium arsonide" which willreplace silicon chips in the next generation ofcomputers