Ballistic Missile Defense:

Current Status of Strategic Target System

NSIAD-95-78: Published: Mar 3, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 3, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization's (BMDO) Strategic Target System (STARS), focusing on the status of STARS, planned launches, costs, and the status of major hardware acquisition and refurbishment.

GAO found that: (1) the Secretary of Defense's 1993 comprehensive review of the nation's defense strategy drastically reduced the number of STARS launches required to support National Missile Defense (NMD) and BMDO funding; (2) due to the launch and budget reductions, the STARS office developed a draft long-range plan for the STARS program; (3) the study examined three options: (a) place the program in a dormant status, but retain the capability to reactivate it; (b) terminate the program; and (c) continue the program; (4) BMDO is currently evaluating STARS as a potential long-range system for launching targets for development tests of future Theater Missile Defense (TMD) systems; (5) the final decision, which may not be made for 6 to 9 months, will be based on factors such as the cost to maintain STARS and Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty issues associated with testing TMD systems; (6) since July 1993, the planned level of test launches has decreased; (7) one firm STARS launch is scheduled to support NMD in fiscal year (FY) 1995; (8) BMDO has identified another 11 potential launches through FY 2000; (9) ten of these 11 launches would support TMD and are dependent on the successful resolution of ABM Treaty issues; the remaining launch would support NMD; (10) the estimated annual cost of operating STARS varies depending on how many launches are conducted; (11) in FY 1995, BMDO plans to spend approximately $22.7 million on STARS and will conduct one launch; (12) of this amount, $15.1 million is the cost to maintain the capability to launch STARS; this cost would be incurred whether or not any launches occur in a fiscal year; (13) for future years, it is estimated that the annual cost to maintain the capability to launch STARS would remain at about $15 million; (14) beginning in FY 1996, project offices that use STARS to launch experiments or targets will be charged from $2.8 million to $4.1 million for each STARS I launch and from $6.7 million to $9.1 million for each STARS II launch; (15) the STARS program has a substantial inventory of STARS hardware; (16) when the STARS program was started in 1985, four launches were anticipated each year; (17) because of the large number of anticipated launches and an unknown defect rate for surplus Polaris motors, the STARS office acquired 117 first-stage and 102 second-stage surplus motors; (18) as of December 1994, seven first-stage and five second-stage refurbished motors were available for future launches; and (19) thirteen third-stage new motors were on-hand and 1 post-boost vehicle built for the STARS launch scheduled in FY 1995.

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