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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
National Missile Defense: An Overview of Alternative Plans
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The debate about whether the United States should deploy a national missile defense (NMD) system may intensify in Congress later this year. The Clinton administration's "three-plus-three" program, adopted in February 1996, calls for the development of an NMD system that is capable of being deployed by 2003 if the ballistic missile threat makes it necessary.

In his response to President Clinton's January 27 State of the Union address, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) once again urged the administration to make a decision now on NMD deployment. According to a spokeswoman for Lott, his "National Missile Defense Act of 1997" (S.7), which calls for the actual deployment of an operational NMD system by the end of 2003, is tentatively scheduled to come up for Senate floor consideration between late April and early August of 1998. The legislation was introduced in January 1997 and approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee in April of that year by a vote of 10–8 along party lines.

In an attempt to find a middle ground, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced the "Defend the United States of America Act of 1997" (S.64) last January. The Lugar bill endorses the "three-plus-three" schedule but empowers Congress—not the administration—to make an NMD deployment decision in the year 2000. The table below highlights the differences between the three approaches to NMD policy. —For more information, contact ACA.

 



Clinton Administration's "Three-Plus-Three" Program Lugar's "Defend the United States of America Act of 1997" Lott's "National Missile Defense Act of 1997"
NMD Policy Develop by 2000 the elements of an NMD system that could be deployed within three years to protect the United States against a limited "rogue" nation ballistic missile attack as well as an accidental or unauthorized launch from more nuclear-capable states. Develop a single-site NMD system that is capable of being deployed by the end of 2003 to protect the United States against limited ballistic missile threats, including accidental or unauthorized launches or attacks by Third World countries. Deploy an NMD system by the end of 2003 that is capable of defending the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized or deliberate).
If a missile threat exists in 2000, the United States will then decide whether to deploy the system by 2003. Congress will make the NMD deployment decision in 2000 based on several factors, such as the ballistic missile threat to the United States, the projected cost and effectiveness of the system based on available technology and testing results, and arms control factors. System could be augmented over time to provide a layered defense against larger and more sophisticated missile threats if they emerge.
If no threat exists in 2000, then the United States will continue NMD development and maintain the capability to deploy the system within three years of an identified threat. Requires the United States to seek a cooperative transition to a regime that does not feature an "offense-only form of deterrence" as a basis for strategic stability.
Views on the ABM Treaty The ABM Treaty is the cornerstone of strategic stability. NMD system will be compliant with the ABM Treaty. Urges the president to pursue, if necessary, discussions with Russia to achieve an agreement to amend the ABM Treaty to allow for NMD deployment.
Three-plus-three development program will be compliant with the ABM Treaty. Urges the president to pursue discussions with Russia regarding amendments to the ABM Treaty, as necessary, to allow for more effective limited defenses against long-range ballistic missile attacks (for example, two ABM deployment sites.) If amendments are not reached within one year of the bill's enactment, the president and Congress will consider exercising the option of U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.
Deployed NMD system might require amendments to the ABM Treaty depending on its configuration.