After winning three Super Bowl rings as a linebacker in the National Football League, Riki Ellison’s message remains the same: The best offense is a good defense.

“It doesn’t matter what game you are playing,” said Ellison, founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance — a nonprofit organization advocating the development and deployment of missile defense for the United States. “If they can’t score, they can’t win.”

Ellison — who played ten seasons in the NFL and won three Super Bowl Championships with the San Francisco 49ers during the 1980s — spoke to a group of Lynchburg veterans about the importance of missile defense systems in the United States during Sunday’s meeting of the Virginia Piedmont Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars (MOWW).

“Part of what we do is to educate the next generation of leaders and patriots in our county,” said Michael Okin, commander of the local MOWW in Lynchburg. “We try to educate our members on information that is not readily available to the public.”

Ellison, 57, founded the Missile Advocacy Alliance to lobby for missile-defense deployment and development. Ellison studied international relations at the University of Southern California and was asked to work with former President Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars missile defense effort before being drafted into professional football.

“Many of the things I advocate for today were formulated during the years of Reagan and Bush Sr.,” Ellison said. “It was the defense that was laid during these years that brought the Soviet Union down.”

After his career in the NFL was over, Ellison founded the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance to advocate for the continuation of policies that would strengthen “constitutional security” for residents of the United States.

“There are 300 million tax-paying Americans,” Ellison said. “We have a duty to protect them.”

Ellison spends much of his time talking to groups about the importance of missile defense to the United States and its allies as well as observing rocket tests at bases around the world.

“I live in Alexandria, Virginia, but I travel most of the time,” Ellison said.

Ellison on Sunday said the need for defense against nuclear missiles the greatest since the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

“About 1.2 percent of our defense budget is used for defense,” Ellison said. “The rest is allocated toward offense.”

Ellison said during the Cold War, the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) negated the need for missile defense systems that could eliminate nuclear missiles aimed at the U.S. However, Ellison said “rogue nations” like Iran and North Korea create “a definite need” for systems that will protect the U.S. and its allies.

“About 20 different nations are using missiles as leverage for power,” Ellison said. “During the Cold War, the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction kept this in check but that is not the case anymore.”

Ellison said nuclear weapons from North Korea currently have are capable of striking targets in the United States.

“This lets someone like Kim Jong Un bring the most powerful nation in the world to the negotiation table,” he said. “That is what we cannot allow.”

Ellison said the United State’s missile defense is “the system that will stabilize the situation.”

“The president cannot negotiate from a position of weakness,” Ellison said. “He can’t go into negotiations with North Korea knowing he can’t defend himself from the North Korean ICBM threat. A solid defense lets him walk away from or walk into negotiations with these countries.”

Ellison said speaking to groups like the MOWW in Lynchburg helps educate people to the updated threats that face the United States.

“A lot of these guys here tonight are from a different era when the country relied on air power,” Ellison said. “They might not realize that the threat is different now.”

Mike Reeves, vice commander of the MOWW, agreed.

“I was in the U.S. Navy when a lot of these systems were being tested,” said Reeves, a retired commander from the U.S. Navy. “I don’t think people realize how wide spread these threats are.”

Get breaking news emails

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.


Shannon Keith covers Bedford County for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5530.

Recommended for you

Load comments