Ballistic Missile Defense Program Status Update

John Pike
July 1998

A revised version of this article
appears in Arms Control Today

In the fifteen years since Ronald Reagan's 23 March 1993 speech inaugurating the Strategic Defense Initiative, tens of billions of dollars have produced surprisingly modest results. But missile defense program managers and proponents remain hopeful that 1998 will mark a turning point in demonstrating the technical maturity of an array of theater and national missile defense interceptor programs.

The sharp political controversies that were once the hallmark of the missile defense debate have become increasingly, though not entirely, muted in recent years. Following the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review the Clinton Administration supplemented the funding of several programs that had long been Congressional favorites. And subsequently the Congress, bowing to engineering "facts of life," dropped the overly ambitious deployment schedules mandated in the 1995 Missile Defense Act.

But this political convergence has not reduced the technical challenge of demonstrating the combat readiness of missile defenses. Over the past several years the flagship Army and Navy high-altitude interceptor programs have been unblemished by success, failing to hit their intended targets with a consistency that has surprised even long-time skeptics.

An ambitious series of tests during 1998 is intended to put these and related programs back on track towards deployment, but other challenges remain.

In almost every program important acquisition decisions will be made in advance of extensive testing. Such "fly before you buy" practices have traditionally led to expensive and time-consuming fixes of problems revealed in subsequent testing, and there is little reason for optimism that missile defense will prove exceptional in this regard.

In some cases program plans call for rather large numbers of tests to be conducted in rather short periods of time. Such ambitious test schedules surely contributed to the recent strings of failures, and may be a formula for future failures.

And other programs envision surprisingly modest test efforts, in contrast to prior practice. The Safeguard system began its brief operational existence on 01 April after a total of 111 interceptor test flights, including 58 successful target intercepts in 70 attempts. In contrast, the Clinton Administration proposes to decide on the deployment of a national missile defense system after only three intercept tests. Other programs envision only modestly more ambitious test programs before committing these weapons to the field.

Responding to these concerns, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization formed a study group, composed of senior technologists and headed by retired Gen. Larry Welch, to evaluate past performance and offer recommendations for future program management. The conclusions of the Welch Report, released in February 1998, were encapsulated in the observation that programs to date were characterized by a "rush to failure." Under political pressure to quickly deploy new systems, managers had increased technical risk, reduced testing, with the paradoxical result of delays in achieving operational capabilities. Released weeks before a major new National Missile Defense contract award, the report cautioned that NMD plans appeared to contemplate a continued "rush to failure." The lessons drawn by the Welch report have yet to be reflected in program plans, and currently envisioned testing programs will provide little assurance that these systems will in fact meet their intended performance requirements.

The Arms Control Context

The currently shaky technological foundation of the missile defense development effort stands in marked contrast to the expansive vistas recently opened in the renegotiation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile [ABM] Treaty. While critics of the Treaty charge that missile defense efforts are hobbled by arms control, the reality is that it will be years before theater missile defense programs will mature to fill the rather large shoes that are now envisioned under the Treaty.

In the Fall of 1997 the Clinton Administration finally realized the long-standing US policy objective of accommodating the provisions of the ABM Treaty to the needs of American missile defense program plans. The Reagan Administration had failed in its frontal assault on the Treaty through the so-called "broad interpretation" which asserted that the Treaty simply did not apply to "exotic" systems such as space-based lasers. The Bush Administration had sought to engage Moscow [in both its Soviet and Russian incarnations] in a process of renegotiating the Treaty, but political turbulence in Moscow and programmatic turbulence in Washington frustrated these efforts.

When the Treaty was originally negotiated in 1972 it differentiated between strategic anti-missile systems which were subject to the Treaty's limitations, and other systems such as air-defense and tactical missile defense which were not limited by the Treaty, except to the extent needed to ensure that such systems were in fact not "strategic." The demarcation between strategic and tactical was established as testing against targets with velocities above two kilometers per second and at altitudes above 40 kilometers. The new Treaty regime inserts a third intermediate category covering theater missile systems, and adds various demarcations among these three missile defense categories.

By 1996 negotiations in the Standing Consultative Commission had produced the "Part 1" Agreed Statement on Demarcation (ASD) covering lower-velocity systems with missile interceptor speeds below 3 km/sec, and the more difficult "Part 2" demarcation agreement on "higher velocity" TMD systems was resolved in September 1997, following the March 1997 Helsinki Summit. The sole higher-velocity system is the Navy Upper Tier or Theater-Wide interceptor --- all other TMD systems have lower interceptor speeds and are covered by the Part 1 agreement. As part of the effort to secure Senate ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Administration agreed to seek Senate advice and consent to these demarcation agreements, as well as the companion "multilateralization" agreement on state succession to the ABM Treaty.

Under the provisions of the lower-velocity agreement, TMD systems [other than Navy Upper Tier] can be tested and deployed with any architecture, including space-based cuing, as long the interceptors are never tested against a target with a velocity greater than five kilometers per second or a range greater than 3,500 kilometers. The higher velocity systems are subject to the same test standard, but beyond that determination of compliance with the Treaty is a unilateral national responsibility. The Administration has determined that all TMD systems are compliant with the new provisions of the Treaty, and has certified this compliance to the Congress. The new agreements also explicitly prohibit space-based lasers for TMD applications, but subsequently it has been indicated that testing of space-based lasers would be consistent with the Treaty as long as the associated sensors were not physically attached to the laser itself.


The Marine Corp's HAWK [Homing All-the Way Killer] system, first fielded during the 1960's, providing medium-range low and medium altitude air defense against aircraft and helicopters. The system, which incorporates an explosive warhead with a proximity fuse, is deployed in batteries of three or four launchers with three missiles each. The associated Raytheon AN/TPS-59 radar set has been modified to enable it to detect and track tactical ballistic missiles at long ranges and high altitudes, and missile upgrades include an improved fuze and warhead. The upgraded system was successfully tested against two Lance target missiles at White Sands Missile Range, NM in September 1994.

Initial production of the AN/TPS-59(V3) configuration modification kit began in 1997 with installation of the modification kits is scheduled to begin in 1998 and be completed in 1999. Some 300 HAWK "Improved Lethality Missile" were transferred from the Army to the Marine Corps, and another 700 of these modification kits were installed by the end of 1997, approximately one year later than originally planned. Program delays were attributable to a protest which delayed the award of the modification kit contract, and changes to the test schedule which slipped developmental testing to 1st quarter FY96 and operational testing to 4th quarter FY96.


Although initially intended primarily as an anti-aircraft interceptor, in July 1988 the Patriot system was modified to provide a limited anti-missile capability under the PAC-1 [Patriot Advanced Capability] program. During the Gulf War the improved PAC-2 was employed with disappointing results. Subsequently a series of improvement were initiated resulting in a variety of upgrades under a rather confusing nomenclature system covering both interceptor missiles and the overall system.

The PAC-3 Configuration 1 Air and Missile Defense System was fielded with PAC-2 in 1995.

The Army's Patriot PAC-2 Guidance Enhanced Missiles (GEM) corrected some of the shortcomings identified with the Patriot PAC-2 missile used during Desert Storm. These radar-guided systems incorporate improved versions of the PAC-2 explosive warheads which are detonated near their targets by proximity fuses. The GEM configuration was successfully tested against a ballistic missile defense target at Kwajalein Missile Range on February 7, 1997. Some 345 PAC-2 GEM missiles have been deployed. The PAC-3 Configuration 2, using both PAC-2 and GEM interceptors, incorporates modifications to the Patriot radar, communications system, a remote launch capability, and other system improvements.

The Patriot PAC-3 Configuration 3 is an entirely new missile, derived from the ERINT [Extended Range Interceptor] missile, which is intended to counter theater-class ballistic missile threats using hit-to-kill intercept. PAC-3 derives from technology demonstrated in the June 1986 and May 1987 FLAGE [Flexible Lightweight Agile Guidance Experiment ] hit-to-kill test vehicle intercepts, and in the three successful ERINT tests in November 1993, February 1994 and July 1994. PAC-3 Controlled Test Flights were slated for late 1997, and the first Guidance Test Flight for late 1998.

The Patriot operates as the lower tier of the Army's TMD architecture, is developing the capacity to interact with the Navy Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) system. The Lockheed-Martin PAC-3 missile is fired from the same launcher as earlier versions of Patriot, although eight of the smaller PAC-3 missiles are carried in each firing unit, versus four each of the earlier versions.

In the 1997 budget request the Defense Department added about $230 million for the PAC-3 through the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) and extended the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the program by ten months. PAC-3 Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) is slated to begin in early 1998, with the First Unit Equipped (FUE) of 16 missiles and five radars in one battalion planned for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 1999. A total of six battalions with a total of 1,200 missiles are currently planned for deployment. Originally plans called for nine battalions, but in early 1996 DoD decided to allocate three battalions to the MEADS program.

Navy Area Defense

The Navy Area Defense [NAD] enhancement to the AEGIS/Standard Missile air defense system provides a tactical missile defense capability comparable to that provided by PAC-3. The widely deployed Standard Missile anti-aircraft system, consisting of the SM-1 MR/SM-2 (medium range) and the SM-2 (extended range) missiles, was deployed over a decade ago to replaced Terrier and Tartar shipboard missiles. The system is a product of the Standard Missile Company, a joint venture of Raytheon and Hughes.

Previously referred to as Navy Lower Tier, the NAD interceptor supplements target tracking from the AEGIS radar with new infrared and radio-frequency adjunct terminal guidance sensors. Using a blast fragmentation warhead to destroy missile targets, the modified NAD Standard Missile 2 Block IVA missiles will be deployed on Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Equipped with the powerful AEGIS SPY-1 air and missile defense radar, these cruisers and destroyers contain over 5,000 vertical launch system cells that can be used by Navy TMD interceptors. The Navy plans to buy 1,500 Standard Missile-2, Block IVA missiles to equip 57 AEGIS destroyers and 22 AEGIS cruisers with theater missile defense capability by 2011. The total cost of the program is currently estimated at $8.98 billion, including $2.05 billion for development, $4.18 billion for procurement, and $2.76 billion for operation and support.

A January 1996 program restructure due to flight test delays threatened to set the program's schedule back by at least a year. However DOD added about $120 million to the program in the FY97 budget to pay for the delays in risk-reduction flights and increased costs associated with test targets and lethality evaluation efforts. This increased funding kept the program on schedule, with a User Operational Evaluation System (UOES) capability of 35 missiles on the USS Lake Erie (CG-70) and the USS Port Royal (CG-73) by September 1999, with the First Unit Equipment [FUE] initial operational capability in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2001.

The program experienced a 14 months schedule slippage due problems in the two flight tests conducted prior to the start of engineering and manufacturing development in February 1997. But on January 24, 1997 the Navy first successfully demonstrated the SM-2 Block IVA TMD capability with a successful intercept of a ballistic missile target at the White Sands missile range. The Navy plans to begin low-rate initial production of the missiles in June 2000, five months before developmental and operational tests are scheduled to begin. These tests are slated to include a total of 32 intercept attempts between November 2000 and March 2001.

Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS)

Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), formerly known as CorpSAM, is an international effort to develop a replacement for the widely deployed HAWK anti-aircraft system. This highly mobile system, to be deployed with forward deployed and maneuvering ground forces, is intended to provide omni-directional coverage against the full range of air-breathing threats [both aircraft and cruise missiles]. The United States, Germany, and Italy are partners in MEADS, following a decision in early 1995 by France to withdraw from the program.

In October 1995 the U.S. Army selected Lockheed-Martin Integrated Systems, Inc. and H&R Company (a joint venture between Hughes Aircraft and Raytheon Company) as the US MEADS contractors. These teams are paired with a European team consisting of Alenia, DASA, and Siemens, to create two equal transatlantic industrial entities. In June 1996, the Charter for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) MEADS Design and Development, Production, and Logistics Management Organization (NAMEADSMO) was approved. The associated NATO MEADS Management Agency (NAMEADSMA) is responsible for the accomplishment of the Project Definition-Validation Phase (PD-V) which will lay the groundwork for a decision to enter development in late fiscal year 1998 or early 1999. Under the current schedule MEADS is slated to become operational in 2005.

Theater High Altitude Area Defense [THAAD]

The Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense [THAAD] is intended to provide extended coverage, engaging incoming missile at ranges of up to several hundred kilometers, versus the tens of kilometers provided by the previously discussed systems. This hit-to-kill interceptor could thus provide multiple engagement opportunities against missiles with ranges of hundreds of kilometers, and enhanced capabilities against future threats from missiles which might have ranges of thousands of kilometers. THAAD missiles are intended to actually collide with the target ballistic missile, rather than destroying it by exploding nearby, as fragmentation warheads do. Final guidance to the target is provided by an infrared seeker on the kill vehicle. The interception of a hostile ballistic missile is intended to occur outside the earth's atmosphere, or high in the atmosphere. The range of the THAAD system is to be approximately 200 km horizontally and 150 km vertically.

The original FY98 budget request included $556.1 million THAAD, but following an analysis of the program during the Quadrennial Defense Review DOD submitted an amended budget request of only $353.4 million. The final FY98 Defense Authorization Bill allocated some $406.1 million for THAAD. When the THAAD program was initiated in 1992 its deployment was planned for the mid-1990s. By 1996 the schedule delayed fielding from fiscal year 2002 until 2006 while increasing total system cost from $16.8 billion to $17.9 billion, or by $1.1 billion. The fiscal year 1998 budget request accelerated fielding to 2004 by adding $722 million for fiscal years 1998 through 2003. A total of 1,178 interceptors are planned for the operational force, with each THAAD battery including 9 launchers and 150 missiles. The program currently envisions entering engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) in 1999 following the completion of three successful intercepts.

And in order to provide an emergency capability to counter a small number of missiles, plans call for a UOES capability of two THAAD radars, four launchers, two BM/C4I systems, 40 missiles, and 295 soldiers available in 1999. Apart from the missiles all these components were acquired for demonstration and validation testing and will be refurbished for the UOES system. The option to purchase the UOES missiles would be exercised following the successful intercept of a target, which had not occurred by the end of 1997.

The first three THAAD flight tests, which did not attempt target intercepts, demonstrated basic missile functions. The next four THAAD tests were also very successful in every aspect, except the very critical end-game in which the weapon consistently failed to intercept the target. Following the fourth test failure in March 1997 an extensive program review was initiated, with additional intercept attempts planned for 1998. However, the next flights on 12 May 1998 marked the fifth consecutive failure for this troubled program, which remains unblemished by success. Prior to the March 1997 test the number of test flights planned as the basis for entering engineering and manufacturing development was reduced from 20 to 9 flights to stay on schedule. But the delays imposed by the test failures appear to have resulted in THAAD's initial operational capability once again slipping from 2004 to 2006.

Navy's Theater Wide

Based on AEGIS-equipped ships, the Navy's Theater Wide long-range interceptor system will provide wide area coverage against a wide range of threats, including ascent phase intercepts where the ship's mobility permits such engagements. Although the program has thus far focused on using the LEAP [Lightweight Exo-atmospheric Agile Projectile] hit-to-kill interceptor derived from the Brilliant Pebbles program, other intercept systems are also under study. The program was restructured in the BMD Program Review of early 1996 to focus on an AEGIS LEAP system level intercept demonstration, Kinetic Warhead (KW) and discrimination technology assessments, concept definition studies and system engineering efforts.

With cuing from satellite sensors, LEAP kill vehicle could engage targets at altitudes above 100 kilometers altitude, enabling coverage of a several-hundred-kilometer area when launched atop the SM-2 IV missile. However, tests to date have failed to intercept targets. A series of four Control Test Vehicle flights are slated in 1998 and 1999, leading to the first intercept attempt in mid-2000.

Since the FY97 President's Budget request, the Department provided additional funds for FY 98-01 to increase testing and conduct more in-depth risk reduction. The FY98 budget request of $194.9 million was increased by $150.0 million at the initiative of the House of Representatives [the Senate had initially called for an increase of $80.0 million]. Under current plans Navy Upper Tier is slated for an initial deployment in 2008.

Ground Based Interceptor [GBI]

The Ground Based Interceptor [GBI], the national missile defense weapon element, consists of an exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) launched by a fixed, land- based booster. Three options are being examined for the GBI booster: the Minuteman III ICBM; a combinations of other existing solid-rocket systems; and an entirely new booster.

The EKV has a sensitive, long-range electro-optical infrared seeker which allows the EKV to acquire

and track targets, and to discriminate between the intended target reentry vehicle and other objects, such as tank fragments or decoys. This enables the GBI to be launched against a cluster of objects and subsequently identify and intercept the targeted reentry vehicle. The EKV would also receive one or more in-flight target updates from other ground and space-based sensors, enhance the probability of intercepting the target. Based on this received data and its own sensors, the kill vehicle uses small on-board rockets to maneuvers so as to collide with the target, with both demolished in the high-speed collision.

Competing EKV designs which will be evaluated in a series of test flights in 1998 and 1999. Hughes and Boeing are under contract to deliver sensors for flight tests. EKV sensor flight tests in May 1997 (Boeing sensor) and January 1998 (Hughes sensor) demonstrated seeker operations against targets though no intercepts were attempted. These are to be followed by EKV intercept flights in May 1998 (Boeing) and January 1999 (Hughes). The current plan is to select a single contractor to fly a kill-vehicle in the Integrated Flight Test in late 1999. By 2000 further flight tests will seek to demonstrate interoperability between the EKV and various supporting sensors.

In a parallel effort, the Advanced Interceptor Technology (AIT) program continues the exoatmospheric kill vehicle work initiated under the Brilliant Pebbles (BP) space-based interceptor program, as well as related endo-atmospheric hypervelocity kill vehicle efforts. The Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) provides support to agencies using excess Minuteman ballistic missile assets. The Congress has added money to the DoD budget request to pay for two AIT hit-to-kill interceptor flight tests in 1998. Launched using RSLP missiles, these flights may use the experimental Advanced Solid Axial Stage upper stage.

These systems are being tested under the Clinton Administration's NMD deployment program. This so-called "3 plus 3" effort includes a three year development and planning phase from 1996 through 1999 which, if necessary, could be followed by a three year system acquisition and deployment phase leading to an initial operational capability in 2003. However, if the threat is not judged to warrant NMD deployment, the "3 plus 3" program would preserve the option to deploy an NMD system within three years of a decision to do so through continued development and testing of system elements.

Airborne Laser

The Air Force Airborne Laser (ABL) program plans to develop and deploy a chemical laser system, mounted on a Boeing 747 aircraft, to intercept theater missiles during their boost phase. Although based on demonstrated technology, major improvements in performance will be required prior to the full scale system demonstration in 2002. The magnitude of these improvements is indicated by the $1.3 billion budgeted for program definition and risk reduction, and the $1.2 billion budgeted for engineering and manufacturing development. The Air Force hopes to have a seven-aircraft fleet in service by 2008, around the time the Army and Navy's competing upper-tier programs are slated to become operational. The Air Force estimates the life-cycle cost of the ABL program to be about $11 billion, which includes $4.9 billion for 20 years of operations and support.

Although a 1996 Defense Science Board report termed ABL a high-risk program and recommended focusing on kinetic-energy air-launched boost-phase interceptors, current priorities are otherwise. The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) is conducting studies, along with Israel, of a kinetic energy boost-phase interceptor that would be launched from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The roughly $10 million annual budget of this program is intended to provide a fallback in the event of problems with the ABL.

Space-Based Laser

The program that put the Star Wars in Star Wars, the space-based chemical laser, has enjoyed a renaissance with the advent of the Republican congressional majority. Initiated by the Carter Administration in response to inflated concerns about Soviet directed energy weapons programs, the space-laser was the hallmark of the Reagan SDI program. Reduced in scope but not canceled by the Clinton administration, in recent years the program has at last reached the end of its technological tether, having exhausted the possibilities of ground-based testing.

The Congress, perhaps not unmindful of promises made to Senator Trent Lott that new laser facilities might be constructed in Mississippi, increased the Administration's modest $28.9 million budget request to $126.9 million in fiscal year 1998. The money was a down payment for the launch and orbital testing of a space-laser Readiness Demonstrator (RD) in fiscal year 2005. How militarily meaningful tests could be conducted in compliance with either the original ABM Treaty restrictions on space-based BMD systems, which were extended in the 1997 demarcation agreements, remains unclear.


While these various interceptor systems typically receive the most public and political attention, and despite their myriad problems, they are actually not the most technically challenging element of a theater or national missile defense system. The dismal performance of Patriot during the Gulf War remains a widely under-appreciated reminder that sensors and battle-management systems are the more complex, and less reliable, system elements. Development and testing of ground-based and space-based sensors and their associated battle-management systems continues apace, though there is little prospect of realistic testing that would provide high confidence that these crucial components will perform as advertised.

Performance problems notwithstanding, there is little reason to anticipate that the Army's THAAD will face anything other than programmatic restructuring and shifting schedules and funding profiles until Lockheed Martin eventually manages to build something that can hit a few targets in a few tests. The Army is too heavily invested in THAAD to allow the program to be canceled, and Lockheed Martin is too heavily involved and too influential to allow the program to be radically restructured. Recalling the extraordinarily protracted development effort required for the initial air defense version of Patriot, all parties are likely to persevere even in the face of what to date has been an extraordinarily troubled program.

As with THAAD, the Navy Theater Wide and the Air Force Airborne Laser programs retain strong, high-level, institutional support, and absent profound technological or programmatic challenges seem destined to remain under active development. The fact that the Navy program provides capabilities that largely duplicate those of THAAD, and the fact that the Airborne Laser purports to provide an even more robust capability, has thus far engendered little inter-service rivalry that might lead to one or more systems being canceled.

The unfortunate MEADS program seems destined for oblivion. With so many other programs competing for not entirely unlimited funding, with no clear corporate or service champion, and with operational characteristics not readily differentiated from Patriot, MEADS has garnered only limited international interest, and is no longer included in the Administration's future year budget plans.

The prospects for National Missile Defense, and its Ground Based Interceptor, brightened considerably with the 30 April 1998 selection of Boeing as the NMD Lead System Integrator (LSI) Under this $1.6 billion three-year contract Boeing will be responsible for the NMD development program, and the integration and testing of the various NMD components. Official denials notwithstanding, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Lockheed-Martin's dismal track record with THAAD contributed to the selection of Boeing for this critical effort leading towards NMD deployment. The award of the LSI contract also compounds the institutional momentum towards deployment, given the not-inconsiderable political clout of Boeing in the Congress.

Thus over the next several years the Congress will be faced with at least two major policy decisions on missile defenses that will be made in the face of profound technical uncertainty. Upon Russian ratification of START-2, which may come early in 1998 [or perhaps much later], the Senate will take up consideration of the various demarcation and other refinements to the ABM Treaty recently negotiated by the Clinton Administration. And in the closing months of the millennium, the question of national missile defense deployment will also confront the Congress. In neither case will decision-making have the luxury of high confidence in the anticipated performance of theater or national missile defense systems, totally apart from the other questions that surround these programs. But these operational questions have been increasingly superceded by political calculations.

The Clinton Administration will, not surprisingly, seek Senate ratification of the ABM Treaty demarcation agreements, and seek to postpone Congressional action on NMD deployment until the year 2000. Senate Republicans have articulated a divergent agenda, skeptical of the continued utility of the ABM Treaty, in whatever form, and eager to decide immediately in favor of NMD deployment.

The fate of the ABM Treaty revisions in the Senate remains uncertain, though it may be anticipated that their eventual approval will be secured at the price of concessions on other [related or unrelated] matters of interest to key Senators. The prospects for NMD deployment are even less certain, though not without historical precedent. Three decades ago the Johnson Administration, faced with strong Congressional support for missile defense and an upcoming election, embarked on the Sentinel ABM program as much to defend against the Republicans as to defend against the Chinese. As was demonstrated in the 1996 election-year decision on the B-2 stealth bomber, Clinton-Gore political operatives are not above altering national security plans to deny an opponent a campaign issue. The increasingly forward leaning rhetorical stance of the Clinton Administration towards NMD has progressively reduced their distance from Congressional Republicans. And it is not difficult to formulate the counsel to the Gore campaign that any ill effects of NMD would be better addressed by President Gore than by citizen Gore.

This is not a counsel of despair, but of caution. Over the next two years there will be increasingly irresistable political forces tending towards the deployment of a national missile defense best characterized as a "weapon that doesn't work against a threat that doesn't exist." While embracing much of the missile defense agenda the White House has modulated ill-considered Congressional enthusiasms, and even the Congress has managed at times to refrain from ostentatiously ill-advised adventures. These strengths will be put to the test as the end of the millennium draws near.