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"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Space-Based Laser Put on Hold

The Pentagon’s effort to develop a laser that would be stationed in space to destroy ballistic missiles has been significantly scaled back. In September, the Pentagon shut down the office dedicated to developing the Space-Based Laser (SBL), and it has canceled the first test of the system, which had been planned for 2012, Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish told reporters October 31.

Kadish, who heads the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said that research into space lasers would continue as part of broader research into using lasers to shoot down ballistic missiles, but he also indicated that such work would not be a top priority. “We are consolidating [the SBL] effort and we will do technology as aggressively as we can, but it won’t be focused on putting an experiment in space in the near term,” explained Kadish. In addition, there are no longer any plans to build an SBL test facility.

When asked whether the SBL program had been scrapped, an MDA spokesperson responded November 7, “Not necessarily scrapped but the program office was closed in [September], and all SBL research was moved into a new MDA directorate called Laser Technologies.”

The spokesperson described the SBL program changes as part of an MDA effort to focus on systems that might be fielded sooner rather than later. According to Kadish, “Space basing of this capability can be looked at as a later improvement as opposed to a near-term imperative.”