Reliable Security Information

National Missile Defense: A Status Report


The United States has pursued missile defense technologies since the end of World War II, though efforts to deploy a layered missile shield only took shape during the two terms of President George W. Bush. Since the election of President Barack Obama, however, the future of anti-missile defense has grown less certain (Arms Control Association). The Obama administration has framed its national missile defense strategy with the caveat that continued support will be contingent on pragmatic and cost-effective technological advances and will "not divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public." Missile defense experts interpret these statements to suggest the pace of development will slow, since the technologies have repeatedly failed in field tests. Obama further stoked speculation in February 2009, when, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the New York Times on condition of anonymity, he offered to halt deployment of a new missile defense system in Eastern Europe if Moscow aided Washington in curbing Iran's nuclear program. Obama denied offering a quid pro quo. But even before the administration's apparent olive branch, congressional leaders speculated the days of unfettered spending on missile defense would come to an end (CQ) with Obama in the White House.

"Not only can we hit a bullet with a bullet, we can hit a spot on the bullet with a bullet." – Lt. Gen. Henry A. "Trey" Obering III, Former Director, Missile Defense Agency

A Missile Defense History

U.S. efforts to develop missile defense capabilities can be divided into two eras: interceptors tipped with nuclear warheads and nonnuclear "hit-to-kill" vehicles intended to destroy incoming missiles by colliding with them. The first missile defense research effort...

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