9. DEFENSE VULNERABILITY AND THE HIGH COST OF WHISTLE-BLOWING

The central nervous system of America's military machine is a data processing network called Wimex. The prime function of Wimex is to provide the President and the Secretary of Defense the means to 1) receive warning and intelligence information, 2) apply the resources of the military departments, 3) assign military missions, and 4) provide direction to U.S. commanders based around the world.

Unfortunately, this mighty communications system does not work. The 35 Honeywell computers the Department of Defense bought in 1971 to serve as the core of the Wimex system were obsolete before they were installed. According to an agency report of March 29, 1976, the "network crashes approximately every thirty-five minutes." In March 1977, an exercise at six of the communications sites revealed that the network functioned only 38% of the time at four of them. And the giant NORAD site in Colorado has been plagued by false warnings of nuclear attacks, some of them computer generated.

One person, John Bradley, an engineer originally charged with testing the Wimex prototype, discovered the problem in 1973. Since then he has been trying to convince people that the computers controlling the defense of the nation are dangerous, incompetent, will not protect us in the event of a nuclear exchange, and may, in fact, trigger a holocaust.

For his efforts, Bradley was first criticized, then transferred, and later, after outlining his concerns to Air Force Colonel Robert Rosenberg of the National Security Council, charged with "inefficiency, resisting competent authority and making false and misleading statements about (the system's) reliability." He was then fired. He has been unemployed since 1977 and receives a government pension for emotional disability. Nonetheless, he has persisted with his claims about the failure of the system.

On March 8, 1982, the House Government Operations Committee reported that the U.S. missile attack warning system is plagued by "severe and potentially catastrophic deficiencies" because of failings in the Pentagon's procurement of computer equipment. It urged that Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger give urgent attention to the computer network designed to warn of attack.

The media's failure to report the extraordinary story of the Pentagon's refusal to listen to the man who tried to warn the nation qualifies this story for nomination as a "best censored" story of 1981.

SOURCES:

Inquiry, 9/81, "The High-Cost of Whistle-Blowing" by Rhonda Brown and Paul Matteucci; S. F. Examiner, (AP), 3/9/82, "Our Feeble Missile Attack Warning System."