Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Defending America from Offshore Missile Attack

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Defending America from Offshore Missile Attack

Article excerpt

To build effective missile defenses, the Pentagon must overcome: 1) bureaucratic inertia from 30-years of Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty constraints that blocked even testing of the most effective defense concepts; and 2) given that President Bush withdrew from the ABM Treaty last June 13, the collective amnesia within the Pentagon, which ignores Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) technical achievements of the Reagan-Bush I years. This amnesia results from the Clinton administration's purge of the most advanced SDI technology and its emphasis on making at most minor modifications to ground-based defenses permitted by the ABM Treaty rather than investing in more effective U.S. sea- space- and air-based defenses that could not even be tested under that Treaty. Such programs could be revived to field more effective defenses in the near future.

Key Words: Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT), Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), Missile Defense Acts, Missile Defense Agency (MDA), light-weight, mobile defense systems, satellite constellations and space technology, space defense, sea-based defense, air-based defense, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), SCUD, Standard Missile, Ballistic and cruise missile, container-ship threat, science and technology (S&T), technology demonstration.


The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty was a major inhibition to the development of numerous potentially effective defense systems. Since the Bush administration withdrew from the Treaty last June, many people involved in building defenses are having their eyes opened to that fact. For the first time in three decades, the United States can legally develop, test and deploy appropriate space, sea, air and mobile ground-based defenses. For thirty years, even testing of defenses for the United States was prohibited except for fixed ground-based systems. And permitted research on more effective defenses received only limited funding because going beyond research was banned.

President Reagan was interested in building truly effective defenses - and challenged America's scientific community to determine whether current technology would permit such defenses to be built. By the end of his administration, an affirmative answer emerged and the first Bush administration set out to begin deploying by the mid-1990s an effective global defense, employing all basing modes against attacking missiles of all ranges. By the end of 1992, major development programs were approved by the Pentagon's acquisition bureaucracy - and multiple contracts were issued. Concurrently, negotiations with Russia were opening the way for American engineers to move beyond the ABM Treaty constraints and build effective defenses.

When the Clinton administration commenced on January 20, 1993, these programs were quickly curtailed - the most effective technology efforts were killed outright. And our Russian friends were taken aback when the Clinton administration cancelled high level negotiations with Russia to move beyond the ABM Treaty and instead sought to "strengthen the ABM Treaty" as the "cornerstone of strategic stability" - code words for the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine of the Cold War.

A major problem in fielding the best defenses is that, for a decade now, there has been no serious effort to support technology for the most effective defenses - especially sea- and space-defenses. When I resigned as SDI Director in 1993, $1-2 billion/year was invested on science and technology (S&T) programs. (The overall SDI appropriations in 1991 and 1993 were $4-4.5 billion. The rest of the budget supported major defense acquisition programs.) There were major space technology demonstration programs ($300-400 million/year), as well as for other mobile basing modes. Major S&T programs sought to assure our defenses stayed ahead of likely midcourse offensive countermeasures with alternatives beyond ground-based exo-atmospheric defenses, the Clinton administration's sole focus. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.