I’ve watched many who knew former President Bush well recall their refreshing memories. I was not a close colleague of the president’s, but I will always remember what I believe should rank among his most important, with a still most pertinent legacy — and one that has been seldom if ever mentioned by others.
I was privileged to serve in three posts under President Reagan and Vice President Bush, and then in the early days of President Bush’s administration continue as his Chief Negotiator in our Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union. My primary purpose was to defend President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) efforts, which gave us enormous leverage in those Nuclear and Space Talks that produced the 1987 INF Treaty and START Treaty early in the Bush administration.
Shortly after I passed the baton to Ambassador Dave Smith to lead in those talks that emphasized the possible future role of space-based defenses, President Bush issued a directive to refocus the SDI program, because congress was severely cutting its budget in anticipation of the pending end of the Cold War. He and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney asked me to lead that study, which reported out just before the beginning of Desert Storm.
As I was completing this study, President Bush visited Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and gave his historically important support to the Brilliant Pebbles space based interceptor program, which was the most important and most cost-effective initiative of the SDI era (1983-1993). Dr. Lowell Wood, who invented Brilliant Pebbles, presented a scale model to then-President Bush.
Shortly after I concluded my March 30, 1990, study, then Defense Secretary Cheney invited me to lead as SDI Director and “make it happen.” Then in the following January, following his historically important Desert Storm success, President Bush officially announced his support for the refocused program, which we called Global Protection against Limited Strikes (GPALS):
“… Looking forward, I have directed the SDI program be refocused on providing protection from limited ballistic missile strikes, whatever their source. Let us pursue and SDI program that can deal with any future threat to the United States, to our forces, overseas and to our friends and allies.” (January 29, 1991)
During the following two years, we made very important progress on that development effort. In fact, most if not all our currently operational ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems trace their initial acquisition heritage to that period. But those for the space-based components, particularly Brilliant Pebbles, were scuttled by the Clinton administration, and never since have been revived.
So, I remember President Bush especially for his early advocacy and support that led to our ability today to defend America and our overseas troops, allies and friends against ballistic missile attack.
And I hope that President Trump’s advocacy for a Space Force will provide the means to revive SDI’s most cost-effective product, space-based interceptors now based on today’s advanced technology — rather than the 1989 technology that then made Brilliant Pebbles the first SDI system to be approved to enter a formal Demonstration and Validation (DemVal) program.
God Speed, President Bush.
Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Previously, he served as the Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Deputy Assistant USAF Secretary and Science Advisor to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. In the private sector he was Chairman of Applied Research Associates, a high technology company; member of the technical staff of Jaycor, R&D Associates and Bell Telephone Laboratories; a Senior Associate of the National Institute for Public Policy; and Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Clemson and a PhD from New York University, all in Mechanical Engineering. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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