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What is Missile Defense? Ballistic Missile Defense Narrative

by Jim Garamone

This article was originally published on defenselink.mil

Anyone who says there is no threat to the United States from ballistic missiles isn’t following the news.

The threat, which once came from the former Soviet Union, has spread and the Department of Defense has a duty to protect the citizens of the United States from this growing problem.

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Missile defense is not a new idea. The British tried to devise a defense against Hitler’s V-2 rockets during the waning days of World War II. In the 1960s, the United States devised a system to protect population centers from ballistic missiles. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 between the United States and the Soviet Union forbade either party from working on a continent-wide missile defense program. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative. He envisioned a high-tech, impenetrable ballistic missile shield for the United States.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Strategic Defense Initiative morphed into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and that organization is on the point for allresearch and development for missile defense programs. Along the way, the extent of missile defense changed. From Reagan’s impenetrable shield, missile defense today offers more realistic defense against a handful of missiles. Russia still has thousands of ICBMs. The Russians would easily overwhelm any U.S. missile defense system.

The danger now comes from rogue states. There are 12 nations with nuclear weapons programs. Twenty-eight nations have ballistic missiles. Nations developing ballistic missiles include Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Iran and Syria.

When the United States faced the Soviet Union, there were rational men in the Kremlin that understood the power of these weapons and would not make hasty decisions. For the first time in history, political leaders with no political structure around them or free press to temper a decision to launch will soon possess nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and the means to deliver them. The mere possession of these weapons is a threat to the population of the United States, American national interests around the world, U.S. friends and allies and U.S. deployed forces.

The future of missile defense lies with the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. The organization is testing boost-phase defenses, mid-course defenses and terminal-phase defenses. Serious research and development is exploring all aspects of missile defense in a way that had not been done before. The Clinton administration did not examine many technologies for fear of violating the ABM Treaty. The Bush administration has concluded that the threat is serious, and the only way to proceed is to be truthful about our desire to move beyond the treaty and construct a broader framework of deterrence for the 21st century.