Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hard Choices: New New Orleans Or Missile Defense?

Some spend on Katrina recovery is unavoidable, but $200 billion is out of the ballpark and absent tax increases and pork reduction will force hard choices. For example, completing US missile defenses will cost about the same as rebuilding France-sur-Mississippi. You may have to choose between them.

One day an enemy will lob nuclear warheads at the US. If they get through, the dead will number hundreds of thousands - much more than Katrina's 1,500 max. Here are the GAO numbers (my emphasis) for the two defense programs that will stop that happening.

Ground-based Midcourse Defense

This is the system being deployed at Fort Greely in Alaska.

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element is a missile defense system being developed to protect the United States against limited long-range ballistic missile attacks launched from Northeast Asia and the Middle East...DOD’s planned investment in the GMD program from program inception in 1996 through 2011 is approximately $31.6 billion.

Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense

This is the sea-based system being deployed by the US and Japan.

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (Aegis BMD) element is designed to protect U.S deployed forces, friends, and allies from short-and medium-range ballistic missile attacks. Additionally, its shipboard radar can serve as a forward-deployed sensor for surveillance and early tracking of long-range ballistic missiles in support of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) mission... DOD’s planned investment in the Aegis BMD program from program inception in 1996 through 2011 is approximately $10 billion.

These two programs total about $42 billion over 15 years, with about $25 billion as yet unspent. Of the Katrina $200 billion, I'm guessing about 20% will go to NOLA rebuild - say $40 billion, so call it a wash.

Which would you prefer - a carbon copy of New Orleans, complete with a welfare-dependent brutalized underclass and hurricane vulnerability, or protection against nuclear attack? Unless you want higher taxes, you may have to choose.