Current Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Issues
(Source: Congressional Research Service Reports; issued Feb 21, 2017)
Little detail is currently available about the Trump Administration's agenda for missile defense and whether current policy or program direction might change. The Administration has thus far said only that it will "develop a state-of-the-art missile defense system to protect against missile-based system attacks from states like Iran and North Korea."

A detailed defense budget will not be presented until later this spring, so there is uncertainty as to what precisely the BMD budget and program will look like. Ongoing BMD issues of interest to Congress are summarized below.

Legislative Issues

The FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, P.L. 114-328) made several notable changes that could have significant effects on the direction of U.S. BMD policy and programs. First, the NDAA modified the National Missile Defense Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-38; 10 U.S.C. 2431 note), which had emphasized deploying a national BMD system "capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack."

It now reads that the United States should "maintain and improve an effective, robust layered missile defense system capable of defending the United States, allies, deployed forces, against the developing and increasingly complex ballistic missile threat" (sec.1681).

Although conferees noted that the new provision does not require or direct the development of missile defences against any country or their strategic forces, neither does the new provision restrict such development. This is important because, since the 1980s, the United States has explicitly asserted its BMD policy and programs are not directed at Russian and Chinese strategic nuclear deterrent forces.

Some policy experts believe this change could have significant consequences for relations with Russia and China, while also affecting the scope of U.S. strategic nuclear and BMD programs.

Second, the FY2017 NDAA (sec. 1683) encourages the Department of Defense (DOD) to examine the feasibility of defeating space-based threats to space-based U.S. national security systems and to examine the feasibility of defeating ballistic missile threats with a new generation of space-based missile defense capabilities.

Although there are no prohibitions against deploying nonnuclear weapons in space, the United States has not pursued space-based BMD interceptor programs since the 1980s, and Congress has not demonstrated widespread budgetary or legislative support such capabilities in space.


Click here for the full report (2 PDF pages) hosted n the website of the Federation of American Scientists.

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