Ballistic Missile Defense:

Evolution and Current Issues

NSIAD-93-229: Published: Jul 16, 1993. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the evolution and progress of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program and current issues in funding ballistic missile defense (BMD) research and development, focusing on: (1) the role of Department of Defense (DOD) oversight boards; (2) investments in major projects; and (3) the progress of proposed systems.

GAO found that: (1) SDI began in 1983 focusing on defending against a massive Soviet attack, but the focus changed in 1991 to providing protection from limited ballistic missile strikes against the United States, overseas U.S. forces, and allies; (2) SDI plans changed due to technological improvements, unavailable funding, and changing world events; (3) DOD and the Department of Energy have spent $30.4 billion on BMD since 1985 for the development of various system components; (4) the executive branch has hampered BMD research and development with unrealistic and overly optimistic funding requests and schedules; (5) DOD believes that it urgently needs improved theater missile defense (TMD) systems because of the increasing proliferation of ballistic missile weapon systems and technology; (6) initial TMD and national missile defense (NMD) development will cost about $12.1 billion and $21.8 million, respectively, but funding will depend on compliance with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; (7) TMD and NMD development programs are making use of earlier technologies, but they face challenges in critical areas such as lethality, integration of complex components, and testing; (8) DOD has a technology applications program to transfer appropriate technologies to the commercial sector through a variety of activities; (9) DOD plans to use retired ballistic and other missiles to build suborbital launch vehicles for planned BMD tests and commercial and Air Force space-launch vehicles for orbital flights; and (10) DOD has no plans to use nuclear reactors for electricity generation in proposed deployments, but it continues to study reactor technology.

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