U.S. starts developing first ABM systems
The U.S. steps up its missile defense efforts after the Soviet test and Sputnik launch and begins work on the Nike-Zeus system, its first major anti-ballistic missile system. A ground-based system, Nike-Zeus calls for nuclear-armed interceptors to get close enough to enemy warheads in space to destroy them. Meanwhile, the Pentagon explores technologies that could be used to intercept enemy missiles in their boost phases.
March 4, 1961
Another Soviet advance
The Soviet Union demonstrates ABM capabilities when it successfully intercepts its first a ballistic missile. The ABM missile uses a high-explosive payload to destroy its target.
July 19, 1962
U.S. tests ABM system
One of the Army's Zeus missile interceptors, launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, comes within 2 km of a mock warhead that had been fired from California, which is close enough for a nuclear blast to destroy the warhead.
Cuban missile crisis
President Kennedy announces to the nation that there are nuclear missile sites in Cuba and that he has ordered a naval blockade of the island. After a series of tense negotiations, the worst of the missile crisis ends when the Soviet Union agrees to remove its missiles from Cuba. Privately, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy informs the Soviet Union that the U.S. will withdraw its own missiles from Turkey once the crisis ends.
Dec. 22, 1962
Another successful test for the U.S.
Another Army interceptor missile comes within 200 meters of a mock warhead, again close enough to destroy it with a nuclear explosion.
Nike X ABM system initiated
Nike-Zeus is replaced by the Nike X research program. It is conceived as a "layered" defense, in which long-range interceptors would home in on the enemy warhead in space while short-range interceptors would attack any warheads that re-entered the atmosphere.
Oct. 27, 1966
China launches nuclear missile
China launches its first nuclear missile.
Nov. 10, 1966
Americans learn of Soviet ABM system
The U.S. publicly confirms that the Soviet Union is deploying its anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system around Moscow, which it had first detected two years earlier.
Sept. 18, 1967
U.S. announces Sentinel ABM system
The U.S. announces plans to proceed with its Sentinel ABM system (successor to Nike X), which calls for deploying 700 interceptors to defend selected cities from a limited Chinese threat.
Oct. 10, 1967
Outer Space Treaty goes into effect
The Outer Space Treaty, signed by the U.S., the Soviet Union, and dozens of other countries, mandates that countries will not place "in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction."
Feb. 6, 1969
Amid controversy, Sentinel delayed
After a series of public demonstrations protesting the military's plans to deploy nuclear-armed interceptor missiles near populated areas, the U.S. announces it will halt the deployment of Sentinel. At the time of the announcement, Richard Nixon has been president less than a month.
March 14, 1969
Nixon reorients Sentinel
President Nixon says the deployment of a missile defense will continue. The system is now dubbed "Safeguard," and instead of defending metropolitan areas, the system will use nuclear-armed missiles to defend U.S. ICBM silos.
Congress narrowly approves Safeguard funding
After months of debate, Congress narrowly approves plans to fund Safeguard; Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew, casts the tie-breaking vote.
May 26, 1972
Nixon, Brezhnev sign ABM Treaty
Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev sign the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), which includes the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The ABM Treaty prohibits a nation-wide missile defense, but allows each side two ABM deployment sites and a maximum of 100 interceptor missiles.
July 3, 1974
ABM Treaty amended
An amendment to the ABM Treaty reduces the number of ABM deployment sites for each superpower to one.
October - November 1975
Congress votes to cancel Safeguard funding
The Safeguard ABM site in Grand Forks, N.D., becomes operational in October. By
November, both houses of Congress have decided to cancel funding for the
Safeguard system, partly on the grounds that it will be too expensive and
ineffective against new Soviet weapons.
Safeguard system deactivated
The Safeguard ABM site in North Dakota is deactivated after just 133 days in operation.
The Reagan and Bush Administrations
March 23-25, 1983
Reagan elevates missile defense debate
U.S. President Ronald Reagan, in a nationally televised address, calls for research
and development of into missile defenses: "I call upon the scientific
community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn
their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give
us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete." The next day, congressional opponents of the president's plan deride it as "Star Wars." On March 25, 1983, the
president formalizes his policy in National Security Decision Directive 85.
Jan. 6, 1984
Reagan's new "Strategic Defense Initiative" is born
Reagan's new missile defense program is further codified in National Security Decision Directive 119, which says that "the SDI is not a development and deployment program, but rather a broad-based, centrally managed research effort to identify and develop the key technologies necessary for an effective strategic defense. The research will be initially focused on technologies for: sensing and tracking attacking missiles; destroying attacking missiles and warheads; command and control; and survivability and sustainability."
April 24, 1984
Reagan's secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, signs the charter for the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO).
June 10, 1984
First successful "hit to kill" test
After several failed attempts, the Army successfully tests its Homing Overlay Experiment (HOE), in which a "kill vehicle" launched atop a booster rocket from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands homes in on its target -- an ICBM launched from Vandenberg A.F.B. in California -- and destroys it. (Nearly a decade later, however, the General Accounting Office issues a report indicating that the test had been partly rigged.)
June 21, 1985
SDI's laser experiment hailed
In what The Washington Post hails as a "first for 'Star Wars,'" a laser beam fired from Hawaii is able to bounce off a mirror on the space shuttle Discovery, which is 230 miles above earth and traveling 17,500 mph. The Post quotes the manager of the laser program, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas Meyer, as saying, "Our next step is to perform the same kind of test with rockets fired to an altitude of 360 miles to see if ground-based lasers can stay with them all the way."
Sept. 6, 1985
Chemical laser tested
At the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, a chemical laser aimed at a missile body, which is on the ground and immobile, is able to destroy the missile shell by irradiating it. The New York Times reports that "the use of powerful lasers against missiles in flight is foreseen as one likely component of a defense against Soviet missile attack." It further states, however, that the test "did not appear to represent a breakthrough, since chemical lasers have destroyed metallic objects in the past."
Jan. 26, 1989
Bush nominee signals new attitude
In confirmation hearings, President George H.W. Bush's nominee for secretary of defense, John Tower, says, "I don't believe that we can devise a [ballistic missile defense] umbrella that can protect the entire American population from nuclear incineration. I think that's unrealistic." The New York Times reports that Tower's comments are "a milestone in the history of the anti-missile program." Though Tower is not confirmed, Bush's new secretary of defense -- Dick Cheney -- and other administration officials continue gingerly to echo Tower's sentiments.
April 25, 1989
Budget woes for SDI; "Brilliant Pebbles" emphasized
At a congressional hearing, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney says that budget limitations will delay the development of SDI programs. Cheney also says that the Bush administration will emphasize "Brilliant Pebbles," a missile defense concept in which thousands of small interceptor rockets orbiting in space would home in on enemy missiles and destroy them in their initial or boost phases.
Jan. 24, 1990
SDI architect reconsiders Soviet threat
Amid warming relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union,
Richard Perle, assistant
secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and an influential
policy adviser, tells a congressional committee, "I believe we can
safely reduce the investment we make in protecting against a massive
surprise Soviet nuclear attack."
U.S. ABM system reportedly gets first combat success
Shortly after the Gulf War begins, press reports indicate that for
the first time in history, an U.S. ABM anti-missile system (the Patriot)
has intercepted and destroyed its target (an Iraqi Scud) under combat
conditions. (It is later revealed that the Patriot's success
during the Gulf War had been greatly exaggerated.)
Jan. 28, 1991
ERIS hit-to-kill test deemed success
The Pentagon's Exoatmospheric Reentry Vehicle Interceptor System
(ERIS), which was built using technology from the SDI's Homing Overlay
Experiment, reportedly hits and kills a mock target in space. The New
York Times reports that "after seven years of research and $24
billion in spending, the Pentagon's 'Star Wars' program to destroy enemy
missiles has achieved its first interception of a mock warhead in
space." Critics maintain that the test is plagued by artificial
conditions that make success near certain.
Jan. 29, 1991
Bush refocuses SDI programs
In his State of the Union address, President Bush scales
back SDI and proposes what becomes GPALS, or Global Protection Against
Limited Strikes. "With remarkable technological advances like the
Patriot missile, we can defend against ballistic missile attacks aimed
at innocent civilians," says Bush. "Looking forward, I have directed
that the SDI program be refocused on providing protection from limited
ballistic missile strikes, whatever their source."
July 31, 1991
START I arms reduction agreement signed
President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev conclude the
first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). The two
leaders agree to reduce their arsenals to 6,000 warheads and 1,600 total
ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers.
Dec. 5, 1991
Bush signs Missile Defense Act of 1991
President Bush signs the Missile Defense Act of 1991, which mandates
that the Department of Defense develop by 1996 a "a cost effective,
operationally effective, and ABM Treaty-compliant anti-ballistic missile
system" that will protect the U.S. from limited threats. It also
requires the Defense Department to "aggressively pursue" theater missile
defenses to protect U.S. troops in the field.
Dec. 8, 1991
Soviet Union on brink of collapse
Amid political upheaval, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus declare that the Soviet Union is dissolved. Gorbachev rejects their right to determine the Soviet Union's fate, but later that month, the Soviet Union officially dissolves and the Commonwealth of Independent States emerges, effectively ending the Cold War.
March 13, 1992
Second ERIS intercept attempt fails
In its second hit-to-kill attempt, the ERIS kill vehicle misses its target warhead by several meters.
Jan. 3, 1993
Bush, Yeltsin sign START II
Nearly three weeks before he is to leave office, President Bush signs the START II agreement with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, which would reduce nuclear arsenals once again, to 3,000-3,500 warheads each by 2003.
The Clinton Administration
May 13, 1993
Clinton's defense secretary declares "Star Wars era" over
In renaming SDIO the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), Secretary of Defense Les Aspin declares "the end of the Star Wars era." The BMDO's emphasis will be on developing theater missile defenses.
Sept. 27, 1994
Republicans announce missile defense platform legislation
The Republicans announce the National Security Restoration Act, which is part of its "Contract With America" platform. It calls for the Defense Department to "develop for deployment at the earliest possible date a cost-effective, operational anti-ballistic missile defense system to protect the U.S. against ballistic missile threats." In November, the Republicans sweep both houses of Congress.
Feb. 15, 1995
Republican missile defense platform bill defeated
After heated debate, the House of Representatives defeats by a vote of 218-212 the portion of the "Contract with America" that would mandate a national missile defense system.
Assessment of missile threat rankles Republicans
The National Intelligence Council, which is made up of 13 intelligence agencies, releases its 1995 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which concludes 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 or Canada." When the unclassified summary of the NIE begins to circulate on Capitol Hill, Republicans charge that it had been leaked to help defeat missile defense, and GOP leaders order an outside panel to examine whether the political process had influenced the intelligence community's findings.
March 21, 1996
Republican leaders introduce Defend America Act
House leader Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority leader Robert Dole introduce the Defend America Act, which would require the U.S. to deploy by 2003 a national missile system that would provide a "highly effective" defense to all 50 states against limited, unauthorized, and accidental launches.
April 11, 1996
Clinton's "three-plus-three" NMD plan outlined
In congressional testimony, Secretary of Defense William Perry outlines the Pentagon's "three-plus-three" National Missile Defense (NMD) program, which provides for the development and demonstration of a national missile defense system within three years, or by 2000. The administration would then make a deployment decision and, if the threat warranted, the system would be deployed within three years, or by 2003.
May 30, 1996
Report says budget for Republican plan could reach $60 billion
The Congressional Budget Office reports that deployment
of the Defend America Act could cost up to $60 billion -- much more than
originally anticipated. Subsequently, the bill never comes up for a
Dec. 4, 1996
Panel upholds NIE 95 findings
The outside panel ordered to examine the NIE 95 intelligence findings, issues its report. The panel is chaired by Robert Gates, deputy national
security adviser and director of the CIA during the first Bush
administration. In presenting the panel's
findings to Congress, Gates says, "The panel believes the
intelligence community has a strong case that for sound technical
reasons, the United States is unlikely to face an indigenously developed
and tested intercontinental ballistic missile threat from the Third
World before 2010." Further, says Gates, "There was no breach of the
integrity of the intelligence process. Beyond this, the panel believes
that unsubstantiated allegations challenging the integrity of
intelligence community analysts by those who simply disagree with their
conclusions, including by members of Congress, are irresponsible."
Unsatisfied, congressional proponents of missile defense create another commission to assess ballistic missile threats (see
Rumsfeld commission, below).
March 21, 1997
ABM Treaty to allow "theater" defenses
A summit between President Clinton and Russian President Boris
Yeltsin takes place in Helsinki, Finland, amid Russian concerns over
U.S. efforts to mandate a national missile defense system. Both sides
signal that they are ready to proceed with START III negotiations, which
would reduce each nation's arsenal of deployed nuclear weapons
to 2,000-2,500. Additionally, after years of negotiations to reach a definition
of acceptable "theater" missile defenses under the ABM Treaty, the two nations announce that they have reached an agreement
in which both sides "have the option to establish and to deploy
effective theater missile defense systems," so long as those defenses
"will not pose a realistic threat to the strategic nuclear force of the
June 24, 1997
First "fly by" test of Clinton NMD program conducted
The first "fly by" test of the National Missile Defense system is
conducted. A package of sensors is launched from Kwajalein Atoll and it
collects data in space on targets that have been launched by a missile
from Vandenberg A.F.B. There is no attempt to intercept the targets.
Sept. 26, 1997
"Theater" defenses agreement signed
Representatives from the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and
Kazakhstan sign the ABM Treaty agreement on theater defense weapons.
Jan. 15, 1998
Second "fly by" test conducted
The second NMD "fly by" test is conducted.
Feb. 27, 1998
Missile defense advocates derided for "rush to failure"
An independent panel chaired by retired Gen. Larry Welch issues its report on the Pentagon's missile defense
testing programs. The panel says that the ambitious programs amount to a
"rush to failure." The report's authors, which include several defense
experts, urge a longer development period for missile defense
March 27, 1998
American Missile Protection Act introduced
A bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Thad
Cochran (R-Miss.) would mandate that the U.S. "deploy as soon as is
technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system
capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited
ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or
India, Pakistan tensions intensify
For the first time, Pakistan tests a missile with a reported range of 950 miles and the ability to carry a nuclear warhead of more
than 1,500 pounds. The next month, both Pakistan and India test nuclear
May 13, 1998
Push to legislate national missile defense fails
The nuclear tests in South Asia set off intense debate over Sen.
Cochran's American Missile Protection Act. "We're hearing the thunder
now," said Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), in remarks on the Senate floor.
"It's ... reminding us that some countries are more technically clever
than we give them credit for, and that outside assistance can
dramatically accelerate technical progress." The attempt to debate the
bill is defeated by a single vote.
July 15, 1998
Rumsfeld commission issues
The bipartisan Commission to Assess the Ballistic
Missile Threat to the United States, known as the Rumsfeld commission, issues
its report, which challenges the NIE 1995 findings. Former (and
future) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who chairs the commission,
says in congressional testimony, "This report says, unanimously, we need
to assume that there may be no strategic warning about the development
of a capability to hit the United States." Rumsfeld's commission
concludes that a country like North Korea could deploy an ICBM "within
about five years of a decision to develop" one.
Aug. 31, 1998
North Korea tests three-stage rocket
In a test, North Korea for the first time demonstrates three-stage rocket technology in an attempt to launch a satellite into orbit. The satellite is carried atop a rocket that has been cobbled together from short-range Scud technology. The third stage explodes and the satellite is destroyed, but the failed North Korean test has a profound effect on U.S. policy.
Sept. 9, 1998
American Missile Protect Protection Act re-introduced
In the aftermath of the North Korean launch, Senate Republicans again try to start debate on the American Missile Protection Act. As in their previous attempt in May, the vote to proceed to debate fails by one vote.
Oct. 5, 1998
Republican leaders question relevancy of ABM Treaty
Eight Republican congressional leaders send a letter to President Clinton in which they write, "We have no choice but to conclude that the ABM Treaty did not survive the dissolution of the Soviet Union."
December 1998 - February 1999
Clinton's impeachment scandal
On Dec. 19, 1998, the House impeaches Clinton on two counts of perjury and obstruction of justice. On Feb. 12, 1999, his trial in the Senate finally ends with his acquittal.
March 5, 1999
Clinton reinforces commitment to ABM Treaty
"I have never advocated, initiated, encouraged, sanctioned, or blinked at the possibility that we could unilaterally abrogate the ABM Treaty," President Clinton says. "I personally would be very opposed to that."
March 17-18, 1999
National Missile Defense Act passes Senate, House
With Clinton embroiled in scandal and the Democrats not eager to oppose missile defense, the Senate passes the National Missile Defense Act of 1999. It calls for the deployment of a national missile defense "as soon as technologically possible." The next day, the House passes a similar measure.
July 23, 1999
Clinton signs National Missile Defense Act
Clinton quietly signs the National Missile Defense Act, but in a statement says that "the legislation makes clear that no decision on deployment has been made."
Sept. 8, 1999
Clinton asks for "modest" changes to ABM Treaty
The Washington Post reports that President Clinton, rejecting
GOP insistence that the U.S. withdraw from the ABM Treaty, "has decided to
ask Russia to agree initially to relatively modest changes in the
27-year-old [treaty]." The first set of changes, it reports, permit the U.S. to place 100 interceptor missiles in Alaska to defend against a limited attack from North Korea, Iraq, or Iran.
NIE 99 finally gives Congress worst-case scenario
In a rare move, the intelligence community revises its 1995
National Intelligence Estimate and finally gives Congress the
worst-case scenario some lawmakers have been seeking. It adopts the
Rumsfeld commission's standard for measuring the threat: instead of what
was likely to happen, it considered what could happen. The
report says that "during the next 15 years the United States most likely
will face ICBM threats from Russia, China, and North Korea, probably
from Iran, and possibly from Iraq."
Sept. 12, 1999
North Korea suspends missile testing
After five days of negotiations between U.S. and North Korean officials, North Korea pledges to suspend further long-range missile testing.
Oct. 2, 1999
NMD hit-to-kill test deemed successful
The first hit-to-kill test of Clinton's NMD system is conducted.
Despite initial problems with its telescopes, the kill vehicle is able
to locate the warhead and collide with it. [More details on the
Jan. 18, 2000
Second hit-to-kill test fails
The second hit-to-kill test, which is more complex than the first, is
conducted. The intercept fails when the kill vehicle misses the mock
warhead by about 70 meters. [More details.]
March 7, 2000
Whistle-blower says tests were faked
The New York Times reports that "a former senior engineer at
TRW, a top military contractor, has charged the company with faking
tests and evaluations of a key component for the proposed $27 billion
CBO estimates cost of proposed system
In a Congressional Budget Office report on the costs
of the NMD system, the CBO says that "costs for the entire system would
total nearly $49 billion through 2015." The Washington Post
reports that the CBO's estimate is "roughly twice as much as Pentagon
and congressional supporters of the program have estimated."
May 23, 2000
Presidential hopeful Bush stirs missile defense debate
Presidential candidate George W. Bush holds a news conference at the
National Press Club in which he says, "It is time to leave the Cold War
behind and defend against the new threats of the 21st century. America
must build effective missile defenses based on the best available
options at the earliest possible date. Our missile defense must be
designed to protect all 50 states and our friends and allies and
deployed forces overseas from missile attacks by rogue nations or
accidental launches." The next day, The New York Times reports
that "in calling for missile defenses not only for the United States but
also for its allies, Mr. Bush challenged the longtime orthodoxy of arms
control: that prohibiting defenses allowed limits in offenses."
July 8, 2000
Third hit-to-kill test fails
The third intercept test fails when the kill vehicle doesn't separate from its booster. [More details.]
Aug. 10, 2000
Pentagon staffer issues devastating critique of program
Following the failed July test, Philip Coyle, director of the Pentagon's Office of
Test and Evaluation, issues a devastating 67-page critique of the
proposed national missile defense system (download in PDF). It
details how the tests had been simplified to ensure the perception of
success. The report is delivered privately to the president, but the
Pentagon refuses for eight months to release Coyle's report to the
Sept. 1, 2000
Clinton defers deployment decision
Clinton defers the decision over whether to deploy the National Missile Defense system to his successor. "I simply cannot conclude with the information I have today that we have enough confidence in the technology and the operational effectiveness of the entire [National Missile Defense] system to move forward to deployment."
George W. Bush Administration
Rumsfeld, Powell discuss ABM Treaty weaknesses
In his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services
Committee, Bush's defense secretary nominee, Donald Rumsfeld, says that
the ABM Treaty is "ancient history." Less than a week after
Rumsfeld's comments, Gen. Colin Powell, Bush's nominee for secretary of
state, says in his confirmation hearing before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee,that "it may be necessary, ultimately,
to walk out of the ABM Treaty and abrogate our responsibilities." He
adds, however, that he doesn't think it is currently necessary: "I think
we've got a long way to go and we have a lot of conversations to have
with the Russians over this. But the point I was making is that the
framework that that treaty was designed for was a framework that really
isn't relevant now."
May 1, 2001
Bush outlines missile defense plans, targets ABM Treaty
Less than four months after taking office, President George W. Bush
outlines his vision for missile defense in a speech at the National Defense University. "We need
a new framework that allows us to build missile defenses to counter the
different threats of today's world," Bush says, referring to what he
deemed the ABM Treaty's limitations on research. "No treaty that
prevents us from addressing today's threats, that prohibits us from
pursuing promising technology to defend ourselves, our friends, and our
allies is in our interests." Critics of Bush's plan say that the
development of missile defenses could continue for many years without defying the ABM Treaty.
June 27, 2001
Pentagon earmarks $8.3 billion for missile defense
Rumsfeld submits an $8.3 billion request for missile defenses, the
largest single weapons program in the Pentagon budget. Congress later approves a budget of $7.8 billion for missile defense.
July 14, 2001
Fourth hit-to-kill test deemed successful
The fourth NMD hit-to-kill test successfully demonstrates the system's
interceptor capabilities. But during the final stages of the test, a
software problem prevents the ground-based radar system from assessing
the kill vehicle and whether or not it had hit the mock warhead.
Early September 2001
Veto Threatened Over Funding
The Senate Armed Services Committee tries to move $600 million from the Pentagon's missile defense budget request into anti-terrorism efforts instead. Rumsfeld threatens a presidential veto.
Sept. 11, 2001
World Trade Center Terrorist attacks on U.S.
The U.S. reels from attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Sept. 30, 2001
DoD Pentagon presents missile defense plan ideology
Just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Defense Department releases its "Quadrennial Defense Review Report," in which it says that it has "refocused and revitalized the missile defense program, shifting from a single-site 'national' missile defense approach to a broad-based research, development, and testing effort aimed at deployment of layered missile defenses. ... These defenses will help protect U.S. forward-deployed forces. Moreover, they will provide limited defense against missile threats not only for the American people, but also for U.S. friends and allies."
Dec. 3, 2001
Fifth NMD hit-to-kill test deemed successful
The fifth hit-to-kill test of the NMD, which the Pentagon now calls
the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD), takes place. Eight minutes
after the kill vehicle separates from the booster, it homes in and
destroys the target warhead. [More details.]
Dec. 13, 2001
Bush announces plan to quit ABM Treaty
President Bush announces his intention to
withdraw unilaterally from the ABM Treaty.
Jan. 2, 2002
BMDO reorganized, renamed
In announcing the reorganization of the BMDO, (it is now
called the Missile Defense Agency), Rumsfeld says that a missile defense
system would "defend the United States, deployed forces, allies and
friends from ballistic missile attack." It also "layers defenses to
intercept missiles in all phases of their flight (i.e. boost, midcourse,
and terminal) against all ranges of threats." The Washington Post
reports that the development plan for a "layered" missile defense is "a
much more ambitious effort than the Pentagon's previous focus, which was
largely on a ground-based interceptor system."
Feb. 4, 2002
Pentagon submits budget request to Congress
In its Pentagon budget request, the Bush administration earmarks $7.8
billion of the $367 billion defense budget for missile defense (the same
amount approved for the previous year). Approximately 40 percent of the
missile defense budget -- $3.2 billion -- is for the Bush
administration's GMD system.
March 15, 2002
Sixth GMD hit-to-kill test deemed successful
In the most recent test of the GMD, three decoys -- one large balloon
and two smaller ones -- are used. Despite the additional decoys, the
kill vehicle successfully homes in on the warhead and destroys it.
May 15, 2002
MDA classifies decoy data
Defense Daily reports that the MDA "has decided to classify
details of the targets and countermeasures that will be used in all
future [GMD] flight tests." Critics contend that the Pentagon is being
unnecessarily secretive: "The devil is in the details," complains one
congressman, "and the details are now classified."
June 12, 2002
New rules for missile defense projects
The Washington Post reports that "in recent months, defense officials have exempted missile defense projects from the planning and reporting requirements normally applied to major acquisition programs. They have stopped providing Congress with detailed cost estimates and timetables for anti-missile systems."
June 13, 2002
Sea-based midcourse defense test successful
The very day that the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty becomes effective, an experimental rocket fired from the USS Lake Erie in the Pacific Ocean shoots down a mock warhead fired from Kauai, Hawaii. (It is the fifth such test in a planned nine.) Critics maintain that the controlled conditions of the test permitted the intercept, and that the test did not effectively demonstrate a proficient defense against ICBMs.
June 27, 2002
Pentagon responds to criticism
Pentagon officials say that the new rules and changes in oversight are necessary. "The end result will be faster decision cycles while maintaining the highest standards of oversight," says Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at a congressional hearing. As for classifying decoy data, Wolfowitz says at same hearing, "We would be crazy not to do it. We regularly share that information with Congress, however, at whatever is the appropriate level of classification, and we will continue to do so. [But] there is absolutely no reason to share that information with our enemies."
Sept. 17, 2002
National Security Strategy issued
As war with Iraq looms, the Bush administration releases its National Security Strategy for 2002, in which it reconsiders the notion of "deterrence," one of the hallmarks of military strategy during the Cold War. "Deterrence based only upon the threat of retaliation is less likely to work against leaders of rogue states more willing to take risks, gambling with the lives of their people, and the wealth of their nations," it says. Instead, the White House invokes the doctrine of "preemption": "We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends." Missile defense, the White House says, will still factor into the military strategy. "Our response must take full advantage of ... modern technologies, including the development of an effective missile defense system."