Current Status of Strategic Target System: GAO/NSIAD-95-78
Ballistic Missile Defense: Current Status of Strategic Target System
(Letter Report, 03/03/95, GAO/NSIAD-95-78).

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

GAO found that: (1) the Department of Defense has reduced the number of
STARS launches required to support strategic objectives; (2) the STARS
program office has developed a long-range plan with options for
suspending the program, terminating it, or continuing it; (3) BMDO is
looking at STARS as a potential system for developmental tests of future
theater missile defense systems; (4) BMDO will base its decision on the
program's cost and on issues associated with Anti-Ballistic Missile
Treaty limitations; (5) it costs $15 million annually to maintain the
capability to launch STARS, and additional program costs are based on
the number of launches conducted; (6) beginning in fiscal year 1996,
BMDO will charge project offices from $2.8 million to $9.1 million for
each STARS launch, depending on the version of STARS used; and (7) the
STARS program has a large inventory of new and refurbished motors and
one STARS payload.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

     TITLE:  Ballistic Missile Defense: Current Status of Strategic 
             Target System
      DATE:  03/03/95
   SUBJECT:  Intercontinental ballistic missiles
             Surface to air missiles
             Military budgets
             Arms control agreements
             International relations
             Aerospace engineering
             Aerospace research
             Nuclear weapons
             Advanced weapons systems
IDENTIFIER:  BMDO Strategic Target System
             Minuteman Missile
             Polaris Missile
             BMDO Operations and Deployment Experiments Simulator
             DOD Theater Missile Defense Initiative
             DOD Bottom-Up Review
             Kauai (HI)
             Midcourse Space Experiment Satellite
             SDIO Brilliant Eyes Program
             BMDO Space and Missile Tracking System
             SDI Theater High Altitude Area Defense System
             Orbus Missile Payload
             Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty
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================================================================ COVER

Report to Congressional Requesters

March 1995



Ballistic Missile Defense

=============================================================== ABBREV

  ABM - Anti-Ballistic Missile
  BMDO - Ballistic Missile Defense Organization's
  MSX - Midcourse Space Experiment
  NMD - National Missile Defense
  ODES - Operations and Deployment Experiments Simulator
  PBV - post-boost vehicle
  SSDC - Space and Strategic Defense Command
  STARS - Strategic Target System
  START - Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I
  TMD - Theater Missile Defense

=============================================================== LETTER


March 3, 1995

The Honorable Cardiss Collins
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight
House of Representatives

The Honorable Bill Zeliff
Chairman , Subcommittee on National Security,
 International Affairs, and Criminal Justice
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight
House of Representatives

As requested by the former Chairman of the Legislation and National
Security Subcommittee, this report presents information on the
Ballistic Missile Defense Organization's (BMDO) Strategic Target
System (STARS).  Specifically, we present information on the (1)
status of the STARS program, (2) planned launches through fiscal year
2000, (3) program costs, and (4) status of major hardware acquisition
and refurbishment. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

STARS is a BMDO program managed by the U.  S.  Army Space and
Strategic Defense Command (SSDC).  It began in 1985 in response to
concerns that the supply of surplus Minuteman I boosters used to
launch targets and other experiments on intercontinental ballistic
missile flight trajectories in support of the Strategic Defense
Initiative would be depleted by 1988.  SSDC tasked Sandia National
Laboratories, a Department of Energy laboratory, to develop an
alternative launch vehicle using surplus Polaris boosters.  Two STARS
booster configurations were developed, STARS I and STARS II. 

STARS I consists of refurbished Polaris first and second stages and a
commercially procured Orbus I third stage (see fig.  1).  It can
deploy single or multiple payloads, but the multiple payloads cannot
be deployed in a manner that simulates the operation of a post-boost
vehicle (PBV).\1 To meet this specific need, Sandia developed an
Operations and Deployment Experiments Simulator (ODES), which
functions as a PBV.  (See app.  I, fig.  I.1.) When ODES is added to
STARS I, the configuration is designated STARS II. 

Figure 1:  STARS I Booster

Source:  Sandia National Laboratories. 

The development phase of the STARS program was completed in fiscal
year 1994, and BMDO provided about $192.1 million for this effort. 
The operational phase began in fiscal year 1995. 

The first STARS I flight, a hardware check-out flight, was launched
in February 1993, and the second flight, a STARS I reentry vehicle
experiment, was launched in August 1993.  The third flight, a STARS
II development mission, was launched in July 1994.  All three were
considered successful by BMDO. 

\1 The portion of a missile payload that carries multiple warheads
and has the maneuvering capability to independently target each
warhead on a final trajectory toward a target.  It is also referred
to as a ╣bus.║

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

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)\2 and BMDO
funding.  Due to the launch and budget reductions, the STARS office
developed a draft long-range plan for the STARS program.  The study
examined three options:  (1) place the program in a dormant status,
but retain the capability to reactivate it; (2) terminate the
program; and (3) continue the program.  BMDO is currently evaluating
STARS as a potential long-range system for launching targets for
development tests of future Theater Missile Defense (TMD)\3 systems. 
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. 

Since July 1993, the planned level of test launches has decreased. 
One firm STARS launch is scheduled to support NMD in fiscal year
1995.  BMDO has identified another 11 potential launches through
fiscal year 2000.  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. 

The estimated annual cost of operating STARS varies depending on how
many launches are conducted.  In fiscal year 1995, BMDO plans to
spend approximately $22.7 million on STARS and will conduct one
launch.  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.  For future years, it is
estimated that the annual cost to maintain the capability to launch
STARS would remain at about $15 million.  Beginning in fiscal year
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

The STARS program has a substantial inventory of STARS hardware. 
When the STARS program was started in 1985, four launches were
anticipated each year.  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.  As of December 1994, seven first-stage and five second-stage
refurbished motors were available for future launches.  Also, 13
third-stage new motors were on-hand and
1 PBV was being built for the STARS launch scheduled in fiscal year

\2 The term NMD refers to defending the United States from limited
ballistic missile attacks whether deliberate, accidental, or

\3 The term TMD refers to defending U.S.  forces deployed overseas
and allies and friends from theater ballistic missile attacks. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

In March 1993, the Secretary of Defense initiated a comprehensive
"Bottom-Up Review" of the nation's defense strategy.  He believed
that a departmentwide review needed to be conducted "from the bottom
up" because of the dramatic changes that had occurred in the world as
a result of the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet
Union.  This review provided the direction for shifting America's
focus away from a strategy designed to defend against a global Soviet
threat to a strategy oriented toward the dangers of aggression by
regional powers, a theater missile threat.  Based on the nature of
the present and projected threat from ballistic and cruise missiles
armed with weapons of mass destruction, the Secretary of Defense
decided to proceed with a more robust TMD program to emphasize
protection of forward-deployed U.S.  forces in the near term. 
Additionally, he decided to limit the NMD effort to a technology
program, which drastically reduced the number of STARS launches to
support NMD. 

In May 1994, based on declining launches for STARS and budget
reductions resulting from the "Bottom-Up Review," BMDO requested SSDC
to develop a long-range plan for the STARS program.  The SSDC STARS
project office developed a draft long-range plan that included
management options for (1) continuing the STARS program; (2) placing
it in a dormant status, retaining the capability to reactivate it;
and (3) terminating it.  BMDO is currently evaluating STARS as a
potential long-range system for launching targets for development
tests of future TMD systems.  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 ABM Treaty issues associated with testing TMD

STARS project office officials cite several reasons related to treaty
implications for not terminating the program.  The Strategic Arms
Reduction Treaty I (START) limits other strategic ballistic missiles'
use of telemetry encryption,\4 but STARS is exempt from this
restriction.  In addition, the START II Treaty after its ratification
and formal entry into force would require the total elimination of
land-based multiple warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles by
January 2003.  This means that the launching of land-based multiple
warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles, even as research and
development target boosters, would cease.  Because STARS is exempt
from the START II Treaty, it would be the only land-based multiple
warhead booster that the United States can use as a target or for
research and development.  The STARS II PBV carries multiple warheads
and has the maneuvering capability to independently target each
warhead on a final trajectory toward a target. 

STARS project office officials also cite other reasons for not
terminating the program.  STARS can deliver payloads at various
reentry speeds and trajectories to the vicinity of Kwajalein Missile
Range located about 4,000 kilometers from the Kauai Test Facility. 
STARS is also the only U.S.  target missile system that operates in
the 1,500 to 3,500 kilometer range.  Additionally, the relatively
large diameter of the STARS launch vehicle, the shape of the nose
shroud, and the flat payload plate make STARS suitable as a carrier
vehicle for a variety of experiments and scientific payloads.  Also,
STARS has demonstrated a real-time reporting capability to accurately
predict target positions for experiments throughout its trajectory. 
These are important features for evaluating the capabilities of both
theater and strategic missile defense sensors and weapons. 

\4 Telemetry is a stream of data that is transmitted to the ground
for analysis and display.  Encryption is encoding data so that only
authorized personnel can interpret and use the data. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

In July 1993, BMDO had plans to launch 12 more STARS boosters from
Kauai that would deliver experiments into near space and targets to
Kwajalein through fiscal year 2003.  All of these launches were to
support NMD objectives.  Two were conducted, but as a result of the
"Bottom-Up Review," all but one of the remaining 10 NMD launches were

BMDO now has only one firm launch scheduled.  Additionally, BMDO has
11 potential\5 launches identified through fiscal year 2000.  Ten
would support TMD and 1 would support NMD.  Table 1 provides the
schedule by fiscal year for the STARS launches. 

                           Table 1
            STARS Future Launch Schedule by Fiscal

Missions                             1999  2000
supported    1995  1996  1997  1998  \a    \a    Status
-----------  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----  -----------
NMD/STARS    F\b                                 Scheduled
II                                               in 3rd
Midcourse                                        quarter
Space                                            1995

TMD STARS I        P\c                           Preliminary
Theater                                          planning &
Critical                                         coordinatio
Measurement                                      n
s Program

TMD/STARS I                    P     P     P     Requirement
Boost Phase                                      s being
Intercept                                        developed

NMD/STARS                            P           Requirement
II Space                                         s document
and Missile                                      received

TMD/STARS I                          P P   P P   Requirement
Long-range                                       s being
threats                                          developed

TMD/STARS I                          P     P     Requirement
Space and                                        s document
Missile                                          received
\a The current program could support only two launches annually. 

\b ╣F║ represents firm launch. 

\c Each "P" represents a potential launch. 

The firm launch scheduled for 1995 involves launching a STARS II that
will deploy numerous objects for the Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX)
satellite to observe.  The MSX satellite is scheduled to be launched
into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a Delta II booster
during the second quarter of fiscal year 1995 to conduct a variety of
experiments, one of which will involve observing different types of
target objects deployed from the STARS PBV.  Although this experiment
will support work being conducted in a number of areas, the data will
primarily support the Space and Missile Tracking System (formerly
called Brilliant Eyes) demonstration and validation program. 

The targets for the MSX satellite to observe are scheduled to be
launched on a STARS II in the third quarter of fiscal year 1995.  The
MSX's sensors are to view the numerous objects deployed from the PBV
during sunrise conditions, and the objects are to be representative
of various targets and deployment techniques.  Other mobile and
ground-based sensors will provide trajectory identification,
definition, stereo viewing, and dynamic motion verification of the
test objects. 

Until the ABM Treaty is clarified, the use of STARS to support TMD
testing, including the 10 potential TMD missions shown in table 1, is
in question.  The 1972 ABM Treaty prohibits mobile, land-based
systems that can counter strategic missiles.  However, it does not
define the characteristics of either a strategic or theater missile. 
Some theater missiles now approach the capabilities of the older,
shorter range strategic missiles in terms of maximum range.  Congress
has continuously urged the administration to pursue discussions on
amending the ABM Treaty to clarify the distinctions between theater
and strategic missiles.  The United States and Russia and some of the
states of the former Soviet Union are currently involved in
discussions seeking a demarcation that would clarify the treaty in
such a way that would allow TMD systems such as the Theater High
Altitude Area Defense and other advanced concepts to be developed in
compliance with the ABM Treaty. 

\5 Potential launches:  launches that are not yet funded but are
STARS capable. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

As shown in table 2, the STARS operational budget will be about $22.7
million for fiscal year 1995.  Of this amount, $15.1 million is the
cost to maintain the capability to conduct launches, and the
remaining cost of about $7.6 million primarily represents costs to be
incurred for the scheduled launch in fiscal year 1995.  For future
years, it is estimated that the annual STARS operating budget would
also be about $15 million (excluding inflation) to maintain the
capability to launch.  The $15 million does not include the
additional costs that would be charged to STARS customers for

                           Table 2
            Estimated STARS Budget for Fiscal Year

Description                                            Costs
------------------------------------------------  ----------
Sandia STARS baseline level of effort at          $8,360,000
 Albuquerque (program infrastructure)
Booster refurbishment and mission support          3,470,000
 contracts to maintain industrial base
Kauai Test Facility range support                  2,500,000
Logistics/propulsion support (specialized            130,000
 contractor technical assistance)
First-stage booster storage                           70,000
Second-stage booster storage                          40,000
System engineering and technical assistance          390,000
 contract for STARS project office
SSDC personnel travel                                130,000
Total for maintaining capability to launch        $15,090,00
Additional costs associated with MSX launch in     7,380,000
Destruction of first-and second-stage motors         260,000
Total                                             $22,730,00
\a This budget does not include salary and other administrative costs
of the STARS project office. 

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.1

The $8.36 million for program infrastructure includes a full-time
STARS staff of about 40 to 45 Sandia engineers and technicians,
Sandia part-time staff for the STARS program, Sandia overhead costs,
and a Department of Energy surcharge of 4.3 percent.  According to a
Sandia official, in years when there are no launches, the engineers
and technicians would be used to provide technical support for the
STARS booster system, plan for future STARS launches, upgrade system
documentation, correct anomalies noted on past launches, and perform
other tasks assigned by the STARS office.  The Sandia official also
told us that under Sandia's personnel practices if the 40 to 45
full-time Sandia personnel were to be assigned to other programs
because of a termination or extended suspension of the STARS
operation, it is highly unlikely that they would later be returned to
the STARS program. 

According to a STARS project office official, plans are to spend
about $3.47 million in fiscal year 1995 to maintain the industrial
base for refurbishing first- and second-stage Polaris motors.  A
Sandia official provided the following general comments about
maintaining the industrial base.  Initially, plans are to (1) modify
the existing contract with Aerojet General Corporation to start
assembling refurbished first-stage motors, (2) consolidate facilities
to save money, and (3) send first-stage motors to the Navy's China
Lake facility for screening.  Also, Sandia plans to provide Hercules,
Inc., Aerospace Division, with funds to recertify the second-stage
flight motor for the fiscal year 1995 flight and assemble a
second-stage component refurbished motor as a flight spare.  Plans
are to award new 2-year contracts in April 1995 to Aerojet and
Hercules for work in fiscal years 1995 and 1996.  Aerojet is to
refurbish up to three first-stage motors.  Hercules is to continue
assembling second-stage component refurbished motors.  These
contracts will contain provisions for paying fixed termination costs
to these contractors if the decision is made to cancel the contracts
in fiscal year 1996.  Plans are to also award new contracts in April
1995 to Lockheed Missile and Space Company, Inc., and the Navy. 
Lockheed is to provide technical assistance, and the Navy's
facilities at China Lake and Corona, California, are to screen and
static fire STARS motors and calibrate and recertify motor nozzles
and assembly gauges. 

The Kauai Test Facility range support cost of $2.5 million is
primarily for a facility maintenance contractor; Sandia personnel
supporting STARS; and maintaining range technical capabilities such
as electronic communications equipment, computers, and recording
equipment used to gather flight data. 

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.2

The additional cost associated with the launch to support the MSX
mission, $7.38 million, is for work to be performed by Sandia,
support of the Pacific Missile Range Facility, and logistics'
maintenance and transportation support.  Sandia is to perform work
(1) related to the third stage of the STARS launch vehicle that
houses the Orbus motor and (2) support of launch-field operations. 
This effort involves (1) mission specific software modifications and
validation; (2) assembly and construction of specialized parts and
equipment, to include components for the PBV; and (3) final system
checkout and testing.  The Pacific Missile Range Facility is to
provide uprange support of the STARS booster launch activities.  It
is also to provide miscellaneous range tracking, telemetry, range
safety, and other support requirements.  The logistics'
transportation support is primarily for transportation supporting the
MSX mission.  In addition, funds are to be used for a nonrecurring
effort to move and consolidate first- and second-stage motors, thus
reducing storage costs.  The logistics' maintenance support primarily
involves Hill Air Force Base's effort.  This work involves attaching
components and performing system checks and validation for first- and
second-stage motors. 

The booster destruction cost of $260,000 is for the destruction of
older first- and second-stage motors no longer required for the STARS
program.  The Sierra Army Depot in California is to destroy the

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.3

In September 1993, we reported that STARS users would pay an
estimated $5.9 million for each STARS I launch and an estimated $10.9
million for each STARS II launch.\6 These cost estimates have
decreased because the STARS program has already paid for equipment
such as electronic components, mechanical equipment, stage 1 and 2
refurbished motors, and Orbus motors.  Another reason future STARS
users will pay less is because the MSX and other programs have paid
for long lead hardware to be used on STARS launches that were
canceled.  Even though these launches were canceled, the STARS office
had already acquired the assets. 

Beginning in fiscal year 1996, the costs to future STARS I and II
customers will vary.  Specifically, for the next three STARS
launches, the cost to STARS I customers is estimated to be about $2.8
million, and the cost to STARS II customers is estimated to range
from $6.7 million to $9.1 million.  Beyond the next three launches,
the cost to STARS I customers is estimated to be about $4.1 million,
and the cost to STARS II customers is estimated to range from $8.1
million to $9.1 million.  These estimates include costs for hardware
refurbishment, Sandia launch support, booster transportation, and
costs associated with ODES hardware and related integration of ODES
with the STARS I booster.  These estimates do not include
transportation and payload and range support costs associated with
specific launches. 

\6 Ballistic Missile Defense:  Strategic Target System Launches from
Kauai (GAO/NSIAD-93-270, Sept.  13, 1993). 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

The STARS program acquired surplus Navy Polaris first- and
second-stage boosters starting in the mid-1980s through 1991.  The
STARS program's only cost for those boosters was for transportation
to storage facilities.  The STARS program purchased third-stage Orbus
I motors from United Technologies.  Sandia builds ODES PBVs only as
needed for STARS II launches.  First- and second-stage Polaris motors
have to be refurbished before being used on missions.  Orbus I motors
and ODES do not need to be refurbished.  One ODES has been built and
flown.  Currently, a second ODES is being built for the launch
scheduled in fiscal year 1995.  Table 3 shows the status of STARS
hardware acquisition and refurbishment as of December 1994. 

                           Table 3
           STARS Hardware Assets and Refurbishment
                  Status as of December 1994

                   Total      New or                d or new
STARS major       motors  refurbishe      Motors      motors
components      acquired    d motors        used   available
------------  ----------  ----------  ----------  ----------
First-stage          117          14           7         7\a
Second-              102          10           5         5\b
Third-stage           20          20           7          13
\a Of the seven motors refurbished, four are flight ready, and three
have been refurbished but are not flight ready because the components
have not been assembled. 

\b Of the five motors refurbished, one is flight ready, and four have
been refurbished but are not flight ready because the components have
not been assembled. 

When the STARS program was begun, four launches a year were
anticipated.  Now, no more than two launches a year are anticipated
or even considered possible without increasing the number of Sandia
personnel supporting the STARS program.  According to a STARS
official, there were two reasons the STARS office acquired such a
large number of surplus Polaris first- and second-stage boosters. 
First, a large number of launches was expected when the STARS program
was started.  Second, the defect rate for these 1960s vintage motors
was not known. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

To determine the cost of the STARS program through fiscal year 1994,
we obtained funding data from BMDO, STARS program office, and Sandia
National Laboratories.  STARS officials also provided funding
estimates for fiscal year 1995 and beyond. 

To determine planned launches, BMDO and STARS officials discussed and
provided documents showing firm and potential launches.  Air Force
and TMD officials also provided information about their launch needs. 
BMDO and STARS officials and the SSDC treaty advisor provided
information about how U.S.  treaties may affect the future of the
STARS program. 

To determine the status of STARS hardware, we reviewed relevant
documents such as inventory records and refurbishment contracts. 
Additionally, Sandia and STARS officials provided detailed
information about the status of the hardware program. 

We performed our work at BMDO in Washington, D.C.; SSDC in
Huntsville, Alabama; and Sandia in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Our work
was conducted from August through December 1994 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards. 

As requested, we did not obtain fully coordinated agency comments on
a draft of this report.  However, we did discuss the results of our
work with SSDC and BMDO officials and have incorporated their
suggestions.  In general, they agreed with the information in this

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :7.1

We are sending copies to the Chairmen of the Senate and House
Committees on Appropriations; the Senate Committee on Armed Services;
the House Committee on National Security; the Secretaries of Defense,
the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy; and the Directors of BMDO and
the Office of Management and Budget.  Copies will also be made
available to others upon request. 

If you or your staff have questions concerning this report, please
contact me at (202) 512-4841.  The major contributors to this report
are J.  Klein Spencer, Assistant Director; Bobby D.  Hall,
Evaluator-in-Charge; and Thomas L.  Gordon, Evaluator. 

Brad Hathaway
Associate Director, Systems
 Development and Production Issues

=========================================================== Appendix I

Appendix I contains pictures and maps of STARS and launch sites.  A
picture of ODES with its multiple reentry vehicles is shown in figure
I.1.  The STARS launch facility is located on Kauai, Hawaii (see
figs.  I.2 and I.3).  The booster's range, about 4,000 kilometers, is
about the same as the distance from Kauai to the Kwajalein Atoll in
the Marshall Islands, the intended destination.  Kwajalein, where
sensing and other tracking devices are located (see fig.  I.4), is
one of the two designated test ranges under the ABM Treaty.  The
other, White Sands Missile Range, is not suitable for the types of
tests planned for STARS. 

Figure I.1:  ODES PBV and Payloads

Source:  Sandia National Laboratories. 

Figure I.2:  Location Map of Pacific Missile
Range Facility and Kauai Test Facility on Kauai, Hawaii

Source:  SSDC. 

Figure I.3:  Aerial View of Kauai Test Facility

Source:  Sandia National Laboratories. 

Figure I.4:  Representative STARS Launch Profile

Source:  SSDC.