THE PENTAGON ANNOUNCED January 4 that the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which oversees U.S. missile defense programs, will now be known as the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). More than a name change, the move also represents the increased emphasis the president places on building missile defenses, the Pentagon stated.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld outlined priorities for the new agency, which will be headed by Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, the former BMDO director. The agency is charged with defending the United States, as well as U.S. deployed troops, allies, and friends, from ballistic missile attacks. To accomplish this task, the agency is to develop defenses that intercept ballistic missiles along their entire flight path and to deploy such defenses "as soon as practicable," including, if necessary, prototype and testing elements. These early capabilities will be augmented with new technologies when they become ready.
The agency's priorities reflect Rumsfeld's repeated assertion that it is important to deploy missile defenses as quickly as possible, even if they are not perfect. When asked December 13 whether it would be possible to build a "100 percent effective" defense, Rumsfeld replied, "I don't know what would have changed about humankind that suddenly.. .we would be able to build something that was perfect. …