Missile Defense: The Current Debate
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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The United States has pursued missile defenses since the dawn of the missile age shortly after World War II. The development and deployment of missile defenses has not only been elusive, but has proven to be one of the most divisive issues of the past generation. The Bush Administration substantially altered the debate over missile defenses. The Administration requested significant funding increases for missile defense programs, eliminated the distinction between national and theater missile defense, restructured the missile defense program to focus more directly on developing deployment options for a layered capability to intercept missiles aimed at U.S. territory across the whole spectrum of their flight path, adopted a new, untried development and acquisition strategy, announced U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty, and is now deploying an initial national missile defense capability. The Administration argued these steps were necessary in response to growing concerns over the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, especially on the part of a handful of potentially hostile states and terrorists. In addition, they asserted that U.S. deterrence theory has outlived its usefulness and that conventional or nuclear deterrence could not be relied upon to dissuade unstable leaders in rogue states. Critics, however, take issue with assertions that the threat is increasing, citing evidence that the number of nations seeking or possessing nuclear weapons has actually declined over the past twenty years. Moreover, they argue that the technology for effective missile defense remains immature, that deployment can be provocative to allies, friends, and adversaries, and it is a budget-buster that reduces the availability of funds to modernize and operate U.S. conventional military forces.
- Antimissile Defense Systems