Current policy guidance for missile defense is provided in three DOD reports—the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, and the 2010 Ballisic Missile Defense Report, with the last report calling for limited but effective missile defense of the U.S. homeland, of U.S. deployed forces abroad, and of the host nations for those forces. In addition, as part of U.S. policy of extended deterrence, the last of the three reports calls for cooperation with allies to provide a defense umbrella against belligerent states, particularly North Korea and Iran, that are hostile to the collective interests of the United States and its friends and allies on which it depends.

The title of this report, Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense, underscores the four primary objectives in meeting the congressional tasking. One is to provide a sound basis for resolving once and for all some of the claims for BMD systems (including sensors): Do present and proposed ballistic missile defense systems offer capability and capacity to handle situations beyond those constituted by an unrealistically constrained view of the threat? Given the kinematics and time constraints of the engagement problem, are intercepts realistically achievable? The second objective is to independently assess from a user’s perspective the effectiveness and utility of the BMD systems being fielded as well as those being contemplated for future deployment. The third, as per the statement of task, is to examine the resource requirements for each BMD capability in relation to its mission utility. This resource examination is based on currently available program cost data as well as on historical cost data for systems with similar elements and takes into consideration realistic, achievable concepts of operations. The final objective is to propose a way forward for U.S. missile defense efforts, including midcourse discrimination.

The chapters of the committee’s unclassified report are organized as follows: Chapter 2 provides the committee’s assessment of systems for U.S. boost-phase missile defense. Chapter 3 addresses non-boost alternatives. Chapter 4 compares the various systems in terms of their utility, maturity, and cost. Chapter 5 recommends a path forward, including those activities that in the committee’s judgment should be redirected or terminated and the various supporting sensors that will be required. The committee believes systems engineering and analysis need improvement and that the current ballistic missile defense capability for U.S. homeland defense—the GMD system—should evolve to improve its overall effectiveness. The committee also produced a separate classified annex, which does not modify any of the report’s findings or recommendations but provides supporting material and analyses employing classified data.

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