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IP: CBO on National Missile Defense
From: Dave Farber <farber () cis upenn edu>
Date: Wed, 17 May 2000 17:38:56 -0700

Date: Wed, 17 May 2000 15:50:30 -0400 (EDT)
From: AIP listserver <fyi () aip org>
To: fyi-mailing () aip org
Subject: FYI #53 - CBO on National Missile Defense

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 53: May 17, 2000

CBO Paper Questions Missile Defense Cost, Schedule

When President Clinton meets with Russian President Vladimir
Putin at a June summit in Moscow, one of the topics for
discussion will be a US national missile defense (NMD) system,
and possible revisions to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM)
Treaty.  While the Russians have been reluctant to consider
revising the treaty to permit US construction of such a defensive
shield, there are also questions and concerns about the proposed
system closer to home.

As reported in FYI #52, the Council of the American Physical
Society released an April 29 statement addressing the decision
Clinton is expected to make this summer or fall regarding
deployment of a National Missile Defense (NMD).  Also in April,
the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a document on the
"Budgetary and Technical Implications" of the planned system.
Neither the APS statement nor the CBO paper take a position
regarding eventual deployment of such a system.  The APS
statement says that tests planned before the expected decision
"fall far short" of what would be necessary to prove the
"technical feasibility" of the system.  The CBO report arrives at
a higher cost estimate for the first phase of the system than the
Administration projects, and admits to ambiguity regarding the
sufficiency of the planned number of test flights before a
deployment decision is made.

The 37-page CBO document, intended to provide "objective,
impartial analysis," was requested by Democratic Senators Tom
Daschle (SD), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), and Carl Levin (MI).  It
does not attempt to "examine the ultimate effectiveness of the
NMD system."  According to the document, recent intelligence
reports have "instilled a sense of urgency in the Administration,
causing it to propose a very ambitious development schedule for
NMD."  The Administration has restructured its plan "so that
deployment could occur in 2005 if a decision was made this summer
to do so."

According to CBO, the Administration's plan lays out three
possible phases: Expanded Capability 1 would ultimately comprise
100 interceptors at one launch site in Alaska, intended to defend
against missiles with simple countermeasures.  Capability 2 would
be able to handle more sophisticated countermeasures, and
Capability 3 would add more interceptors and a second launch
site, most likely in North Dakota.  The Administration has only
given a cost estimate for Expanded Capability 1, of $25.6 billion
through the year 2015.  CBO estimates that this first phase would
cost $29.5 billion over the same period, and explains that its
estimate includes more replacements and spares, more additional
testing in the system's early years, and an assumption of 20
percent cost growth (comparable to similar programs), rather than
the Administration's assumption of 5 percent growth.  The paper
also predicts greater operating costs than the Administration.
CBO projects that moving from Expanded Capability 1 to Capability
2 would cost an additional $6.1 billion, for a total system cost
of $35.6 billion, and proceeding to Capability 3 would cost $13.3
billion, bringing the total cost to $48.8 billion.  CBO notes
that the Administration gives no cost estimates for the follow-on
phases, and that the current defense plan for future years does
not at this time include enough funding for those later phases.

After reviewing historical testing trends for similar development
programs, CBO concludes only that "unfortunately, the record of
past programs is ambiguous" with respect to the appropriate
number of test flights.  It finds, however, that the average
development time for similar programs is 13 years rather than the
10 planned for NMD, and warns of the "significant risks"
associated with such an accelerated schedule.  One consequence is
the significant overlap between development and production.  The
document refers to the NMD program as "an extreme example of
production overlapping development."  The closest CBO comes to
making a recommendation is to  say that "extending the
acquisition schedule for the threshold deployment of Capability 1
to the more traditional 13 years - with deployment by the end of
2008 - would have some advantages."  In particular, this would
allow more time to develop "the technology needed to discriminate
between decoys and real warheads."

The CBO paper also addresses possible reactions by other nations
to US implementation of a national missile defense.  Entitled
"Budgetary and Technical Implications of the Administration's
Plan for National Missile Defense," the paper  is available at
http://www.cbo.gov under "Recently Released" documents.

Audrey T. Leath
Public Information Division
The American Institute of Physics
fyi () aip org
(301) 209-3094

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