The MX Weapon System:

Issues and Challenges

MASAD-81-1: Published: Feb 17, 1981. Publicly Released: Feb 17, 1981.

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Progress has been made during the first year of full-scale development of the MX weapon system, particularly in missile development. However, the Department of Defense (DOD) is faced with a tremendous management challenge in achieving cost, schedule, and performance goals.

Although DOD has approved new requirements estimated to cost $700 million, there has been no change in the life-cycle cost estimate. MX is designed to provide a certain number of surviving reentry vehicles assuming a threat constrained by the unratified Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. Without a treaty, the Soviets could build enough weapons to neutralize MX. MX could then be expanded to counter that threat, at considerable cost, by adding missiles, shelters, and/or a ballistic missile defense. Congress should be aware that it is not possible at this time to predict the ultimate size of the deployment area, the number of missiles and shelters, or the cost of MX. The primary method of Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty verification should prevent undetected deployment of additional missiles. Some of the extra verification features in the MX design, especially the view ports, appear unnecessary. The Air Force assessed existing military bases and concluded that neither land nor facilities were available for an MX operating base. However, excess land at Nellis Air Force Base was not included in the assessment. In addition, consideration was not given to placing part of the facilities on existing bases. The Air Force is considering options that would enhance its ability to take actions that may be necessary to protect location uncertainty. Some of these options could be construed as restrictions on public access or activities, but no final decisions have been made.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should have an independent assessment made and inform Congress of the feasibility of placing one of the operating bases on excess Federal land at Nellis Air Force Base. If it is not feasible to locate an entire MX operating base at Nellis, the potential for siting some MX facilities at existing military bases should be examined.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should inform Congress how the Air Force will enforce measures to assure the preservation of location uncertainty, including an identification of any new laws or changes to existing laws that may be required.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should restudy the need for MX verification features. The results of this study should be given to Congress along with information previously requested on the cost of view ports.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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