Center for Arms Control

Missile Defense

Missile Defense

For the latest missile related news and analysis, please see the Missile Defense section of Nukes of Hazard.

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.


Dr. Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA, ret.)

Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA, ret.)

202-546-0795 ext. 2111
rgard AT armscontrolcenter DOT org


Oct 31, 2014

John Isaacs Discusses Missile Defense in Interview with WAFF-TV (AL)

Watch John Isaacs discuss the shortfalls of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) anti-ballistic missile system in an interview with WAFF-TV, a Huntsville, Alabama station. Huntsville is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command.

Sep 6, 2014

The Economist Story on Missile Defense Quotes Kingston Reif and Phil Coyle

Senior science fellow Phill Coyle tells The Economist that as of June, the FTG-06b has failed all five intercept tests conducted since 2008, even though each was meticulously “scripted for success.”

Aug 19, 2014

The Washington Post publishes Letter to the Editor on Military Escalation in Iraq by Angela Canterbury

"If a U.S. military engagement had been designed as a limited strategy to rescue Yazidis and to evacuate U.S. personnel, we would have reacted differently," writes Angela Canterbury, Executive Director of CACNP. "But the open-ended nature of the stated mission was and continues to be alarming."

Jul 21, 2014

National Defense Magazine Publishes Story on Missile Defense by Lt. Gen. Robert Gard

"The opportunity costs of investing in an expensive program to counter an unlikely threat, especially in times of constrained defense budgets, must be considered. GAO estimated that about $41 billion has been committed to the GMD program, $4.5 billion of it between fiscal years 2013 and 2017." writes Lt. Gen. Robert Gard

Jul 17, 2014

Fact Sheet: U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense

A detailed summary of the basics and key issues surrounding ballistic missile defense.

Jun 30, 2014

The National Interest Publishes an Op-ed on Missile Defense by Lt. General Robert Gard and Phil Coyle

There’s an old adage, often applied to government: “Why is there never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it over?” This describes the history over the past decade of the GMD system. Ever since 2002, when President Bush called for deployment of the GMD system within two years, there has been a rush to failure, with no time to do it right, and a decade spent doing it over, writes Lt. General Robert Guard and Phil Coyle for The National Interest

Jun 18, 2014

U.S. News & World Report Publishes Letter to the Editor on Missile Defense Failures by John Isaacs

"Today, the greatest nuclear danger isn’t from another country but rather a rogue group with a suitcase that evaded detection because we slashed nonproliferation funds to support “big ticket” projects," writes John Isaacs for U.S. News & World Report.

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