The MX Weapon System--A Program With Cost and Schedule Uncertainties

PSAD-80-29: Published: Feb 29, 1980. Publicly Released: Feb 29, 1980.

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The MX weapon system is a new intercontinental ballistic missile system. It was established to provide increased survivability as well as higher damage expectancy. According to the President, development of the MX weapon system will enable the United States to continue with a strategic deterrent force comprised of modernized survivable intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers. The Ballistic Missile Office was assigned responsibility for managing the MX program. Initial deployment of the system is planned for July 1986, with full deployment to be accomplished by 1989. The Air Force estimates that the MX weapon system will cost about $33 billion. Inflationary estimates will increase this estimated cost to at least $56 billion.

With the MX weapon system entering full-scale development, uncertainties exist about the approval of the method of survivable basing selected by the President; the obtainment of the land necessary for deployment; the availability of large amounts of electricity, water, and building materials for construction and operations; and the survivability of the proposed MX system if there is no strategic arms control agreement. Further uncertainties which exist are: (1) the location of the missiles for survivability because of the many signatures that need to be masked and the unknown future threat; (2) the size of the missile force, the required number of warheads, and the design of the weapon system, which make it questionable whether the Air Force can meet its cost, schedule, and performance goals; and (3) the shortage of needed personnel to effectively manage the MX program during the first year of full-scale development.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should: (1) identify the potential increases or decreases in program cost due to the many uncertainties which still have to be resolved; (2) ensure that the high cost of the MX system is adequately analyzed in the context of the overall DOD budget to determine if it is affordable and whether any other major weapon system programs would have to be terminated or delayed; (3) expedite efforts to establish a memorandum of agreement with the Secretary of the Interior setting forth a time-phased action plan which will allow public land to be withdrawn for the MX weapon system; and (4) identify the changes to the MX weapon system that may be required without arms control agreements.

    Agency Affected:


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