In March 1999, the US Congress approved
legislation mandating the deployment of a Ballistic
Missile Defense (BMD) system as soon as technologically possible. The House approved
the measure 317 to 102; the Senate vote was 90 to 3.
Dubbed "Star Wars Lite" by critics, the new plan is a scaled down version of the
Reagan Administration's 1983 plan for a space-based system that would protect the United
States from a massive Soviet missile attack, a system that never worked after 15 years and
$50 billion of research. The new plan is said to be for defense against limited attack by
nations such as North Korea or Iraq or accidental launch by Russia or China.
The US has allocated $10.5 billion over the next five years for research and tests and
will make a decision by June 2000 whether to deploy the BMD system by 2005. Any BMD
deployment would violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and talk of sharing a
system with Japan, South Korea and especially Taiwan, has infuriated the Chinese. Russia,
seeing its own nuclear forces deteriorating and increasingly vulnerable, warns bilateral
nuclear arms reductions would suffer.
For more information, see the Federation of American Scientists website, www.fas.org/spp/starwars