My Turn: Shielding 'Missile Defense'

Juneau being left out of studies of system's impacts

Posted: Friday, August 03, 2007

This is in regards to the July 19 Empire article "Juneau to play part in anti-missile test."

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If Juneau residents have not commented on the radar, I would bet it is because the Missile Defense Agency did not put out a public notice for comments. The less the public knows the better, as Kodiak residents have found out regarding agency and Alaska Aerospace Development Corp. activities at the Kodiak Launch Complex over the past 10 years.

For those who want to be informed about radio-frequency-microwave radiation of land-based mobile sensors, I suggest getting a copy of the Sept. 26, 2005, "Missile Defense Agency Mobile Sensors Environmental Assessment." A free copy may be requested by contacting Richard "Rick" Lehner at the Missile Defense Agency via e-mail at or by phone at (703) 697-8997. The assessment also isavailable online at

As part of missile defense testing, the Missile Defense Agency is locating sensors in predetermined Alaska locations that are listed in the mobile sensors environmental assessment. Nevertheless, Juneau was not included in the assessment as a potential location and it should have been, according to Department of Defense environmental assessment requirements.

This is an example of how the Missile Defense Agency operates. Cordova, however, was mentioned in the assessment, and the Alaska Aerospace Development Corp. obtained a permit through the state and has since prepared a pad at the Merle K. Smith Airport for a radar that will monitor launches from Kodiak. There also should have been a permit process for the Juneau radar (possibly through the Department of Natural Resources).

Since the Cordova radar will be monitoring missile launches from Kodiak, why does Juneau need a radar? The Sea-Based X-Band Radar will be monitoring Kodiak launches once it is back in Alaska.

Other Alaska land-based and/or airborne sensor locations listed in the mobile sensor environmental assessment as part of the missile defense program are: Adak, Kodiak Launch Complex and Kodiak Airport, King Salmon, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Eareckson Air Force Station, Anchorage International Airport, airspace over broad ocean area, airspace over land portion of ranges, and airspace over ocean portion of ranges.

It is not surprising the Juneau radar's beam pattern is classified. Many radar systems are classified because the Department of Defense is experimenting with "directed energy" weapons research - high-power microwaves such as the Kodiak SuperDARN (which has various beam patterns and power levels), mobile-airborne lasers and sensors.

One or all of the missile defense sensors may be activated at a time to focus on a target. The various electromagnetic radiation hazards to aircraft, birds, humans and the environment are discussed in the mobile sensors environmental assessment, and the public should be aware of those hazards.

In regard to the environmental effects from the use of land-based sensors in Cordova, the mobile sensors environmental assessment states: "Prior to operating any radar at the proposed off-axis site, MDA or the Alaska Aerospace Development Corp. would complete an EMR/electromagnetic interference survey."

The same should be done before operating the Juneau radar, and Juneau residents should request the results of the survey.

Lastly, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration are cooperating agencies with the Missile Defense Agency in regards to missile defense or atmospheric research. As such, the agencies approve one another's activities, even if those activities are questionable.

• Carolyn Heitman is a resident of Kodiak.

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