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Chapter 21


The proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons and the missiles that can deliver them pose a major threat to the security of the United States forces, its allies, and friendly nations. While the end of the Cold War greatly reduced the threat of a global conflict or large-scale attack on the United States, the proliferation of NBC and ballistic missiles raises new threats to U.S. security interests. Over 20 countries possess or are developing NBC weapons, and more than 20 nations have theater ballistic missiles (TBMs). A robust Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program plays a critical role in the broader counterproliferation strategy to reduce, deter, and defend against NBC and ballistic missile threats.

The Intelligence Community has estimated that a new threat to the United States from ballistic missile attack is not likely to emerge for at least another decade, but the threat to U.S. forces in the field and to allies and friends has already arrived. U.S. missile defense priorities reflect the urgency of this immediate threat and the shifting focus from global conflict to the threat of major regional conflicts involving adversaries armed with advanced conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. ballistic missile defense program places the highest priority on Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD) programs to meet the threat that is here now. The second priority is the development of a National Missile Defense (NMD) program that positions the United States to field the most effective defense system possible at a time in the future when the threat warrants deployment. The third priority is the continued development of a technology base that improves the capability of both TBMD and NMD systems to respond to emerging threats.


Ballistic Missile Defense is a critical component of the broad U.S. strategy to meet ballistic missile threats to U.S. forces and allies in a theater and to the United States. BMD plays a role in each of the three components of that strategy: preventing and reducing the threat, deterring the threat, and defending against the threat. Prevention and deterrence are supported by a strong nuclear deterrent, arms control agreements like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), threat reduction efforts such as Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR), the Missile Technology and Control Regime (MTCR) and export controls, and counterproliferation military capabilities. Missile defense programs complement and strengthen the prevention and deterrence provided by these programs. Effective missile defense systems reduce the incentives for proliferant nations to develop, acquire, or use ballistic missiles and NBC by reducing the chances that an attack would inflict serious damage on U.S. or allied targets. Furthermore, the ability to extend protection to allies and friends may mitigate the desire of many states to acquire their own NBC as an independent deterrent against attack.

The threat of ballistic missile use in regional conflicts has grown substantially, and the potential combination of NBC with theater ballistic missiles poses serious dangers and complications to the management of regional crises and the prosecution of U.S. strategy for major regional conflicts. Ballistic missiles have been used in six conflicts since 1980. The 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, Libyan attacks on Lampedusa Island, Operation Desert Storm, the war in Afghanistan, the Iranian attack against dissident camps, and the conflict in Yemen demonstrated the capability of ballistic missiles to threaten a full range of targets for political and military purposes.

In the future, an aggressor state may seek to limit U.S. freedom of action by threatening NBC-armed missile attack. Such a threat may intimidate a neighboring nation, thereby discouraging it from seeking U.S. protection or participating with the United States in the formation of a defensive coalition. Hostile states possessing theater ballistic missiles armed with NBC may be able to threaten or use these weapons in an attempt to deter or otherwise constrain U.S. ability to project military forces to meet commitments abroad and achieve national security objectives. With NBC, even small-scale theater ballistic missile threats would raise dramatically the potential costs and risks of military operations, undermine conventional superiority, and jeopardize the credibility of U.S. regional security strategies. By dealing effectively with these threats, ballistic missile defense contributes to both prevention and successful U.S. responses to regional crises.


Early in 1996, the Department of Defense completed a comprehensive review of its BMD program. The goal of the review was to ensure that the Department fields the most effective missile defense at an affordable price in time to defeat emerging ballistic missile threats. The BMD program was reviewed in light of assessments of existing and potential threats, the status of each BMD program or element, changes in force projection needs since the 1993 Bottom-Up Review; FY 1996 congressional and budget actions; Joint Chiefs of Staff spending and modernization priorities; and treaty obligations. BMD priorities are theater missile defense, national missile defense, and an investment in BMD advanced technologies in order to enhance future BMD capability in both TMD and NMD.

The program review concluded that meeting the current threat of theater ballistic missiles against U.S. forward-deployed forces and bases was a top priority within TBMD. TBMD builds on existing infrastructure and prior investment in order to deploy lower-tier missile defense systems as soon as possible. This will strengthen, in the shortest time possible, the ability of the United States to defend against the most immediate threats. Upper-tier missile defense programs provide population and wide-area defense. They can better deal with longer-range theater ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction and reduce the number of missiles that lower-tier systems must engage, thereby increasing overall TBMD effectiveness. These programs were also restructured both to provide development of land-based upper-tier systems at a slower rate to reduce risk and to accelerate efforts to develop sea-based upper-tier systems to broaden upper-tier options. The review also shifted the NMD program from a technology to a deployment readiness program. This positions the Department to respond more quickly to new strategic threats to the United States, should they emerge.


Theater Ballistic Missile Defense Programs

The Department's first BMD priority is to develop, procure, and deploy TBMD systems to protect forward-deployed and expeditionary elements of the U.S. armed forces, as well as U.S. friends and allies, from TBMs. This plan envisions the time-phased acquisition of a multi-tier defensive capability.

Lower-tier systems remain a top priority. The Department will field a capability to defeat short-to-medium range TBMs as soon as possible. Building on existing infrastructure and prior investment, BMD funds have been added to both Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC) and Navy Area Defense. BMD funds are also going to the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) to begin project definition and validation of a concept for this system with Germany and Italy. MEADS will be a highly mobile system to be deployed with maneuver forces and provide 360-degree coverage against short-range TBMs, cruise missiles, and other aerodynamic threats.

Upper-tier systems are necessary to defend wide areas, to defeat longer-range ballistic missiles, and to increase theater commanders effectiveness against weapons of mass destruction. The Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) early deployment system - the User Operational Evaluation System (UOES) Battalion - will be potentially available to U.S. forces for contingency use as early as 1999. The battalion will consist of batteries of two radars and several launchers with each launcher loaded with eight missiles. The production THAAD system, greatly improved by UOES equipment operator input, focuses on the near-term and mid-term threat. The Navy Theater Wide, otherwise known as Navy Upper-Tier, has received additional funding to accelerate this program from advanced capability exploration to system demonstration.

Other TBMD concepts remain important. The Department will continue to explore concepts for boost-phase theater missile defense, both within Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and Air Force programs. These programs would add another layer to missile defenses and further limit the numbers of weapons that terminal defenses will have to defeat. They also will enhance deterrence by confronting an adversary with the prospect that missile warheads will fall back on its own territory. Air Force investment in an airborne laser will provide a contingency capability in a demonstrator platform in the year 2002. The Air Force's Airborne Laser Program, having just completed a three year concept design phase, has been authorized to begin the program definition and risk reduction phase. It is fully funded by the Air Force outside the BMDO program and will produce a single platform with UOES-like residual operational capability by 2002. A decision to proceed would lead an initial operational capability in 2006 with the fielding of three aircraft, and full operational capability in 2008 with seven.

The TBMD program reflects a commitment to deploy, as soon as possible, systems that defend against a threat that has already emerged. With these changes, the Department has increased the number of TBMD systems moving toward early deployment.

TBMD Cooperation with Allies and Friends

As part of broader efforts to enhance the security of U.S. and allied forces against ballistic missile strikes and to complement U.S. counterproliferation strategy, the United States is exploring opportunities for TBMD cooperation with its allies and friends. TBMD cooperation will help strengthen U.S. security relationships, will enhance the U.S. counterproliferation strategy and, should that fail, will protect against such threats.

Recognition of the existence and growing threat of ballistic missile attack is increasing in the international community. The latest stage of TBMD cooperation results from DoD giving high priority to a renewal of the spirit of armaments cooperation, thereby providing impetus to efforts to engage allies and friends in ballistic missile defense programs. The United States has established several working groups with allies to explore the possibility of TBMD cooperation. To capitalize on the interest shown by many allies, the United States is taking an evolutionary and tailored approach to allied cooperation to accommodate varying national programs and plans, as well as special national capabilities. This approach ranges from bilateral or multilateral research and development, to improvements to current missile capabilities, to off-the-shelf purchases, to more robust participation such as co-development and co-production programs, as in the case of MEADS and Arrow. Continued U.S. support and participation in the Arrow program with Israel, for example, are also designed to meet the goal of full interoperability between U.S. and Israeli TBMD systems. The United States is embarking on an early warning sharing initiative aimed at reducing/preventing the TBM threat. The concept envisions that sharing of early warning information of regional TBM launches is the foundation for engendering greater cooperation on TBMD with allies and friends. In 1996, the United States began early warning sharing operations with NATO, Japan, and Israel.

The United States is also exploring opportunities for TBMD cooperation with Russia as one means of fostering cooperative approaches to deal with new regional security challenges of mutual interests like the proliferation of ballistic missiles. Toward this end, a joint United States-Russian TBMD command post exercise was conducted June 3-7, 1996, at the Joint National Test Facility, Falcon Air Force Base, Colorado. The aim of the exercise was to provide a practical basis for U.S. and Russian forces to cooperate in TBMD operations in future regional contingencies where each side's forces could be deployed together against a common adversary possessing theater ballistic missiles. Using simulation capabilities, U.S. and Russian military experts examined operational concepts and procedures for independent but coordinated TBMD operations.

National Missile Defense Program

The second priority of the ballistic missile defense program is National Missile Defense (NMD). The objective of the NMD program is to enable the United States to respond if new strategic missile threats to U.S. territory emerge. As a result of the review, the Department shifted emphasis from technology readiness to deployment readiness, although it is not making a decision now to deploy an NMD system.

The Intelligence Community has concluded that no country, other than the major declared nuclear powers, will develop or otherwise acquire a ballistic missile in the next 15 years that could threaten the contiguous 48 states. Only a North Korean missile in development, the Taepo Dong 2, could conceivably have sufficient range to strike portions of Alaska or the far-western Hawaiian Islands, but the likelihood of it being operational within five years is very low.

The threat from an accidental or unauthorized launch from the former Soviet Union or China is remote. These systems remain under the firm control of their national leaderships. In addition, the number of former Soviet strategic ballistic missiles, the number of bases and submarines where they are located, and the number of countries where they are based are being reduced by START and the CTR Program. These dramatic reductions in the strategic missile threat to the United States also reduce the opportunities for accidental or unauthorized launch. A ballistic missile detargeted according to the 1994 Clinton-Yeltsin agreement either could not be launched accidentally or, if launched, would land in the ocean.

The NMD program is thus structured to create a technology and programmatic foundation upon which the United States could build if intelligence indicated that a strategic threat was emerging, in order to put a defense against that threat into the field before it emerged. The United States is not making a decision to deploy a national missile defense; deploying before the threat emerges would mean not deploying the most advanced technology if and when the threat does emerge. It would also mean allocating scarce procurement resources on NMD that could otherwise have met more urgent modernization needs.

The NMD program will develop all the elements of a system in a balanced manner, achieving a first test of an integrated system by FY 1999. The United States will be in a position to deploy an initial system, based on the elements tested in FY 1999, within three years of a decision to do so. Thereafter, the NMD program will work to improve the performance of the system by advancing the technology of each element and adding new elements, all the while maintaining the capability to deploy the system within three years of a decision. In order to ensure a properly executed program that will be cost effective and meet the stressful timelines of an FY 1999 demonstration, the Department has designated NMD as an Acquisition Category (ACAT) 1D acquisition program.

The elements of the baseline NMD system are the existing early warning satellite system and its planned follow-on, Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) High; Upgraded Early Warning Radars; a new Ground-Based Radar; a Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) (several options which are currently being evaluated including the use of Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as the GBI booster); a Battle Management/Command, Control, and Communications (BM/C3) system; and Forward-Based X-Band Radars (FBXBs). Other elements, including other fixed radars and SBIRS Low, would be part of follow-on NMD architectures. The NMD BM/C3 architecture will be designed to promote interoperability and evolution to a common BM/C3 system for theater air defense.

The NMD Deployment Readiness Program will be conducted in compliance with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Depending on its configuration, a deployed NMD system could either be compliant with the ABM Treaty as written, or might require amendment of the Treaty's provisions. The NMD system currently under consideration would have the purpose of defending against rogue and accidental/unauthorized threats. It would not be capable of defending against a heavy deliberate attack. Decisions about the treaty compliance of potential NMD systems would be made by DoD on advice of the Compliance Review Group.

Technology Base

Activities in the BMD technology base are key to countering future, more difficult threats. The technology base program underpins both the TBMD and NMD programs. It allows DoD to provide block upgrades to baseline systems, to perform technology demonstrations to reduce risk and speed technology insertion, and to advance basic technologies to provide a hedge against future surprises. Advanced technologies are also being exploited to drastically reduce the cost of future BMD systems. The Department is continuing technology projects underway today, such as the exploration of boost-phase intercept concepts and the space based laser (SBL) program, both funded by BMDO.

Additionally, the Department has a number of initiatives outside of the BMD program to improve U.S. ability to detect and defeat threat cruise missiles in-theater or launched against the United States. Just like TBMD, cruise missile defense is an integral part of DoD's efforts to counter aircraft and missile threats. Most air defense sensors, BM/C3, and weapons (including the PAC-3, Navy Area TBM defense, and MEADS lower-tier systems) have some capability against cruise missiles. The Department is attempting to leverage the synergy between ballistic and cruise missile defense.


The Administration is committed to protecting against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the ballistic missiles that deliver them. The United States has a multifaceted strategy for countering such threats, of which BMD is a critical ingredient. The overall structure of the BMD program proposed meets present and possible future ballistic missile threats, will provide the best technology to meet these threats, is fiscally prudent, and is consistent with efforts to reduce and prevent missile threats.

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