PART III -- THE REAGAN REVOLUTION IN DEFENSE AND ARMS CONTROL

Chapter 13 - Strategic Defense: SDI, MAD, ASATs, Civil Defense

define a long-term research and development program aimed at an ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by nuclear ballistic missiles. These actions will be carried out in a manner consistent with our obligations under the ABM Treaty and recognizing the need for close consultations with our allies. (emphasis added)12

Following a classified NSC meeting that produced the NSDD 85 directive, the White House on the same day issued a public Announcement on the Development of a Defensive System against Nuclear Ballistic Missiles, quoting Reagan as follows:

I direct the development of an intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program aimed at an ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by nuclear ballistic missiles. These actions will be carried out in a manner consistent with our obligations under the ABM Treaty and recognizing the need for close consultations with our allies.13

Readers should note that Reagan pledges ABM Treaty-compliant research and here sets the ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by the ballistic missiles—a goal clearly far more feasible than eliminating all such missiles themselves.

Soviet Military Power—March 1983. The second edition of the NSC-coordinated reports was published by the Department of Defense on Soviet Military Power—1983, issued in March 1983, initiated the series’ red-blue comparison of Soviet and U.S. military programs. The report’s Chapter IV on Soviet Space Systems provided updates on the Soviet strategic defense developments, including new radars and the far smaller U.S. anti-missile, anti-satellite, and other space programs. The portrayal of the accelerating asymmetries in the strategic “balance” and serious national security concerns reinforced Reagan’s March announcement of the purpose and importance of his Strategic Defense Initiative (other reports and other editions, including Soviet Military Power—1987, provide extensive further updates).

4. SDI, the Scowcroft Commission, and Reagan NSDDs on SDI Consultations and Public Diplomacy—1983 to 1987

In the intense national debate that followed Reagan’s SDI proposal, the initiative from the start gained particularly important support from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and his senior staff; from White House adviser Edwin Meese; and from Reagan’s National Security Advisor, William Clark, and his NSC defense and arms control staff. However, several other elements of the bureaucracy tended to be more concerned than pleased about SDI’s revolutionary departure from the predominant MAD deterrence and arms control assumptions of the time. The U.S. Congress generally split on partisan lines with Republicans supportive and Democrats almost universally opposed.

The Scowcroft Commission and SDI—April 1983. At this point, Reagan gained significant early public support for his offensive and defensive U.S. strategic modernization proposals from the prestigious bipartisan Presidential Commission on Strategic Forces that he had established in January 1983. Headed by retired Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, a highly respected former National Security Advisor to presidents Nixon and Ford, the public Report of the President’s Commission on Strategic Forces was issued on April 6, 1983. As reviewed in Chapter 12, the report focused on offensive U.S.-Soviet force asymmetries and recommended correctives including programs generally opposed by Reagan’s critics: the MX and small-ICBM missile program, the Trident submarine and D–5 sea-launched missile, cruise missiles, and anti-ballistic missile defenses. On ABMs, the Commission reviewed active Soviet programs and set the following rationale for the U.S.:

Vigorous research and development on ABM technologies—including, in particular, ways to sharpen the effectiveness of treaty-limited ABM systems with new types of nuclear systems and also ways to use non-nuclear systems—are imperative to avoid technological surprise from the Soviets. Such a vigorous program on our part also decreases any Soviet incentive—based on an attempt to achieve unilateral advantage—to abrogate the ABM treaty.14

NSC Study, Technology Plan, NSC Coordination—April 1983. Shortly after receiving the Scowcroft Commission report, Reagan issued a study directive NSSD 6–83—Study on Eliminating the Threat Posed by Ballistic Missiles, issued on April 18, 1983 and requesting by October 1, 1983 a study to:

[Book pg. 304]

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