There has been much speculation and confusion about the projected cost of the Bush administration's "layered" missile defense program. Here's a closer look.
On June 27, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked Congress for $8.3 billion for missile defenses -- an increase of nearly $3 billion over the previous year -- making it the largest single weapons program in the Pentagon budget. Congress approved $7.8 billion, and, pending final passage of the Defense Appropriations bill, the administration will maintain that level of funding in its 2003 budget.
There has been much speculation and confusion about the projected cost of the proposed "layered" missile defense program. So far there have been no reliable estimates, in part because the Pentagon has given few details about many of the specific systems it plans to develop. In other words, with most of it still on the drawing board, the architecture of the system, the timing and the costs have not been defined.
Still, in January 2002 the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its findings about the costs of a limited number of systems the Pentagon may deploy. Adding the numbers for three individual programs -- ground- and sea-based systems for intercepting long-range missiles in midcourse, and a space-based laser that could destroy them in their "boost" phase -- would yield potential costs between $198 and $238 billion in current dollars. But in a letter submitting the report to the Senate, the budget office warned that it might be inaccurate to add all the components together, arguing that the Pentagon could save money by developing all the systems together and sharing technology among them.
In the same letter, however, the CBO added, "In many cases substantial uncertainty exists about the relationship between the system descriptions available to CBO and whatever missile defenses might ultimately be deployed." In other words, it was unable to estimate costs for systems like ship-based boost-phase defense and the airborne laser.