A study on: Exploring U.S. Missile Defense Requirements in 2010: What Are the Policy and Technology Challenges?


Dr. Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Jr.As we move toward the end of this decade and into the next century, it is increasingly apparent that technology proliferation is conferring unprecedented destructive capabilities on a larger number of actors — including states but also other entities as well. Aspiring regional powers and rogue states continue to invest often scarce resources in the development and/or acquisition of ballistic and cruise missiles with the expectation that they will confer both power and status.

For smaller states, missiles, together with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) warheads, are sometimes seen as a "great equalizer" that furnishes a basis for asymmetrical warfare or for deterrence by a smaller state against a larger state. In many cases, such states are situated in regions such as Southwest Asia and Northeast Asia that are of major importance to the United States and its allies.

The increasing availability of WMD coincides with the emergence of a conflict map that encompasses disputes, wars, and other armed confrontations across a spectrum from major regional wars to sub-state ethnic conflict and terrorism. We confront a dynamic and changing security setting in which states hostile to our interests may acquire the means to threaten WMD use against our forward deployed forces, the territory of our allies and even possibly the United States itself. The simple threat of retaliation that worked in the Cold War to deter the use of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union may not work in the post-Cold War era.

Because emerging and future possessors of such weapons may be tempted actually to use them, we must rethink deterrence strategy, including the relationship between, and the relative importance of, offensive and defensively based deterrence. Added to this dramatically changed strategic setting is the fact that we cannot be certain that the possessors of such capabilities will have acquired them by indigenous development or, more quickly, by theft, purchase, or barter. Therefore, we will need to think about proliferation timelines in a way that takes these alternative approaches into account. If there is emerging uncertainty about when and how such capabilities will be acquired, it follows that we face technological challenges to an effective defense that must be addressed as we plan for the next century. As we begin to deploy missile defenses, we will face continuing challenges as offensive and defensive technologies become more widely available.

This Report is based on extensive research conducted under the auspices of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis with a focus on the policy and technical challenges likely to shape the missile environment in the first decade of the next century. In addition to Russia and China, the study includes a detailed consideration of other likely or potential missile possessors: Korea, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and others. Emphasis is placed on the high level of uncertainty that exists about the pace of missile technology proliferation, as well as the difficulties facing the United States and other technologically advanced states in maintaining effective export control regimes as part of a counterproliferation strategy. Because it is likely to become increasingly difficult to predict the rate at which ballistic and cruise missile proliferation will take place, the lead times for the United States to deploy effective missile defenses will be shortened. At the same time the development of penetration aids, maneuvering warheads, and related technologies will make countermeasures to missile defense more widely available.

Although this study is based on a vast array of open source data and information that includes trends into the future, it is necessarily the case that there are no facts about the future. Therefore, the present study is based on an analysis of potential implications of existing trends. It is designed to assist members of the policy community, within government and outside, in thinking about the implications of rapidly advancing and proliferating technology in a world of dramatic political, economic, and military change. This Report is principally the work of David R. Tanks, Senior Staff Member of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis. As part of the study effort leading to this Report, the Institute has convened a series of major meetings designed to bring together appropriate expertise from diverse political, military, scientific, and technological backgrounds. In addition to preparing this Report, Mr. Tanks has presented a series of briefings on various aspects of the study during the preparatory phases. Inputs from such presentations have contributed to this Report, which will form the basis for other ongoing IFPA studies and analyses on missile defenses and the transformed post-Cold War security setting.

Dr. Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Jr.
Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, Inc.