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Interceptor test in the Marshall Islands (2005). MDA photo.
The American missile defense program is a comprehensive, multi-layered system of systems designed to protect the United States and its allies against ballistic missile attack. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) within the Department of Defense has primary responsibility for ballistic missile defense programs. Annual funding has increased from $3 billion during the Clinton administration to over $10 billion today.
It was not until 1983, with President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" speech, that expanded research and development on missile defense programs notably accelerated. The Star Wars program, officially known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), aimed to establish combined ground- and space-based missile defense systems to protect against strategic nuclear ballistic missiles by forming a "protective bubble." This complex endeavor sparked skepticism about technological feasibility, affordability, and possible abrogation of the ABM Treaty. Star Wars was never fully developed or deployed.
Despite an investment of over $150 billion since the mid-1980s, questions remain about the technical viability and cost-effectiveness of the US missile defense effort.