California is the collective cauldron of great engineering leadership, political leadership, policy intellectualism, some of the best federal labs, aerospace industry depth, exceptional world class physics, the original “think tank” RAND in Santa Monica, pre-eminent Air Force and Navy testing and launching bases and academic institutions that have force functioned the birth, development, testing, and deployment of all of the ballistic missile defenses in the world today that are defending over a billion people of our nation and our allies.
From the leadership of the Governor of California Ronald Reagan to many significant Californians – Dr. William Teller, David Montague, Dr. William Van Cleave, and others supported by from Sandia and Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, the Rand institute, the Hoover Institute, and the world’s leading Aerospace industry and defense complex all out of California – force functioned by the nuclear strategic proliferation of the Soviet Union during the Cold War – produced a competitive cauldron of strategic thought, political will, exceptional astrophysics, and engineering that brought forth the birth of proven kinetic energy intercept systems to defeat nuclear ICBMS that enhanced deterrence and helped to win the Cold War.
In 1979, Governor Ronald Reagan postured by his inner circle and influenced by the collective California cauldron in his presidential election campaign visited Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, the Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the defense of North America against Soviet Union forces and asked where are the nation’s ballistic missile defenses were amongst the nation’s strategic offensive forces. There was no answer, there were none. The nation had dismantled its nuclear tipped interceptors and terminated the single missile defense field at Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1976 in mad rationale, concern, safety, and fear of nuclear fallout and shifted to complete reliance on offensive mutual assured destruction, based on avenging with nuclear weapons.
Governor Ronald Reagan became President, two years later in 1981, on January 20th. Another two years later, on March 23rd, 1983, President Reagan announces the development of missile defense systems to make nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete. In March of 1984, President Reagan appointed the first director for missile defense, to develop and deploy his intent of the 1983 SDI speech and to stand up the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO). That organization now is called the Missile Defense Agency and our nation is now on its 10th Director- Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves. 1984 also produced the first memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreements on missile defense development with Israel and Japan, which both today are the most prolific co-producers, with the United States, of missile defense systems. The most significant event to happen in 1984 was on June 10, 1984, launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base, California, the Homing Overlay Experiment proved a kinetic energy intercept of a ICBM was possible, a tremendous physics and engineering breakthrough of demonstrating that missile defenses do not require nuclear weapon explosions to intercept ICBMs. Though the intellectual intent of President Reagans Strategic Defense Initiative of March 23, 1983 was space and laser-based missile defense, the reality of President Reagans SDI legacy is terrestrial based kinetic energy interceptors, using terrestrial based sensors that are now prolific around the globe today. The Exoatmospheric Reentry Interceptor System (ERIS) followed the Homing Overlay Experiment, which was the pathway to the deployed missile defense capability the United States has today from GBIs to SM-3s to THAADs.
MDAA’s unique relationship, as the founder of the organization with President Reagan’s collective cauldron on missile defense, began in 1979 at the University of Southern California (USC). I was a student and graduate under the academic direction of Dr. William Van Cleave who was a professor and in charge of the Defense and Strategic Studies Graduate program that was filling annually some of the nation’s top policy positions in the President’s National Security Council, Department of Defense, State Department, and United States Congressional Committee staffs of which some are still in place today. It is in this time frame where Dr. William Teller and his workings with the Labs in California on missile defense was introduced to me, as he became the dominate missile defense and nuclear physics advisor to President Reagan, advocating with physics of non-nuclear intercepts of ICBMs mostly in space and with lasers. All set with a degree and career path with Dr. William Van Cleave’s direction to follow my USC classmates into policy positions under President Reagan and all inspired by the March 23rd, 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) speech, I was inadvertently drafted into the NFL the following month in April of that year. During my 10 years of NFL off-seasons, I was hired by Dr. Julian Davidson, one of the nation’s premier aerospace engineering experts from Huntsville, Alabama and worked on the Exoatmospheric Reentry Interceptor System (ERIS) program, the second generation kinetic Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) for Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, California. A year later on January 20, 1985, following an exceptional 1984 season, on the day of President Reagan’s second inauguration, and the day that Apple was introduced to the World at Super Bowl XIX, President Reagan did the coin toss from the White House for the Super Bowl and gave the victory phone call to Head Coach Bill Walsh and our team in our locker room in Palo Alto, California. I played defense for the San Francisco 49ers, who appropriately beat that day the highest point producing offense in the NFL with an exceptional layered defense. Along with the public introduction of Apple at this game, that year President Reagan had his first negotiations with the Soviet Union in Geneva, in which missile defense was brought up. Through the 80s and early 90s, I regularly visited the White House with the Presidents Science Advisor Dr. William Graham and others in Congress and in the Department of Defense on evolution of President Reagans vision for missile defense.
In one of his most crowning achievements as President, on October 16, 1986, President Reagan met with the Premier Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union in Iceland and showed him the successful Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) interceptor test of the Homing Overlay Experiment as he positioned the American technical prowess and political might to produce and deploy this system in defeating Soviet Union ICBMs. This was one of the key enablers in breaking the Soviet Union and winning the Cold War. In 1989, the Soviet Union collapsed and in 2002 in response to the 9/11 attack, the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a lifetime objective of Dr. William Van Cleave, further enabling a robust layered missile defense for the nation. In 2004, President Reagan passed and was put in a burial site at his Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
In 2004, MDAA approached Mrs. Reagan to put forward and dedicate a missile defense memorial for President Ronald Reagan at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California overlooking the four GBIs deployed there and the testing silos. She graciously accepted, and we began a meticulous two year planning process with her, President Ronald Reagan’s Library, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, and Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii to create the memorial. On April 4, 2006 we unveiled the bronze statue and plaque with Mrs. Reagan, Senator Ted Stevens, and MDA Director Lt Gen Trey Obering at Vandenburg Air Force Base. On March 27, 2008, we dedicated that statue and memorial that stands today and has viewed six GBI intercept tests, with the most recent being the May 30, 2017 historic ICBM intercept test. We have continued to have a relationship with the Ronald Reagan Library in providing historic missile defense artifacts and models to the Library and bringing our allies in missile defense to this setting.
On the day of the highest amount of annual spending approved by Congress on missile defense, $11.5 billion, we hosted the 35 anniversary of Presidents SDI speech at his Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, March 23. We celebrated and honored the SDI vision of President Ronald Reagan with the 10th and current Missile Defense Agency Director, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, as our keynote speaker and presenter. We took this prestigious place and event to recognize and honor our best missile defenders and operators from California, U.S. Airmen and U.S. Soldiers operating sensor and space missions from the Los Angeles Missiles and Space Base and operating the Ground Based Interceptors in Vandenberg Air Force Base. We also were honored to put forward another significant artifact from our nation’s missile defense history a framed picture of the USS Lake Erie (CG 70), a BMD test ship who has and continues to play a prominent role in the development and deployment of terrestrial sea based missile defenses, as a gift from Dale Bennett of Lockheed Martin to the Ronald Reagan Library, adding to the library’s growing collection of missile defense artifacts.
Here are best of the best active duty missile defenders that we recognized in California.
U.S. Army National Guard
Captain William Smith – Detachment 1 Commander
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jon Siers – XO/C2 Systems Integrator
U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center
Major Joseph Misch
Captain David Baska
First Lieutenant Tony Hillesheim
Lieutenant Derek Holsapple
Lieutenant Kenneth Devine
Captain Rey Heron
President Reagan’s vision has come true and is real today, the United States has the technical capability to negate and make today’s nuclear weapons obsolete. It is vital for our nation and allies to continue to modernize and evolve the current systems to make them more efficient and more effective. Ronald Reagan’s missile defense legacy has helped to prevent nuclear war, provide stability, and status quo across the world, successfully defending us from North Korea and enabling our President to negotiate with the North Korean leader to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
Our President today now must seize the opportunity 35 years later to shift and elevate President Reagan’s SDI vision and call to action to develop and deploy discriminating sensor satellite constellations and to defeat and negate the most challenging technical nuclear weapon missile delivery system in the world today, the Hypersonic Glide Vehicle. China is easily five years ahead of the United States in spending and developing the Hypersonic Glide Vehicle with testing five to ten times annually more than the U.S. with great success. China is not afraid of failure and the Hypersonic Glide is their strategic supremacy system across the Pacific to deny access and area to United States Military Forces operating and deployed in the Pacific. Even further, China is expected to have three times more missiles in its arsenal in ten years than it does today and with even greater variety and diversity.
The great success of President Reagan’s vision of missile defense in reliability, capability, confidence, and growing capacity in defeating ballistic missiles has forced the near peer allies of China and Russia into non-ballistic both nuclear and non-nuclear with hypersonic speeds that are maneuverable and underneath our missile defense systems that intercept in space. President Trump can lead with vision, investment, acquisition, development, testing and policy to posture and shape with the missile defense “Dream Team” currently in the Department of Defense to force function and field technical solutions that will endure to keep our nation and our allies safe and deter our near pears. Failure to do this will enable status quo in the world to change and a Hyper Sonic Arms Race.
We are today in some respects reflective of President Regan’s speech 35 years ago and on the verge of the next missile defense collective competitive cauldron that will force function solutions to the complexity of the missile threat challenges the world faces and regain Peace through Strength.
Keeping it Real.