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

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

assess the role defensive system deployments could play in future security strategy, and will define a research and development program aimed at an ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by nuclear ballistic missiles.15

The Directive’s second section on a Defense Technology Plan seeks to:

identify the most promising directions for future scientific/technological progress to underwrite military potential. Effectiveness and not potential for early deployment will be the important criterion. All technically credible approaches should be considered, ranging from systems capable of engaging ballistic missiles in boost phase to terminal defenses and appropriate combinations thereof . . . [and] to recommend . . . by June 15,1983, appropriate additional funding levels for FY 1985. . . . Recommendations related to space capabilities will also be appropriated in the National Space Strategy, NSSD 13–82. . . . The long-term R&D program plan is due to the President by October 1,1983, and will be updated annually thereafter. The Senior Interdepartmental Group-Defense Policy under the auspices of the NSC is assigned there responsibility for carrying out this effort.16

NSC Meeting on Soviet Programs, SDI, and MAD—November 1983. Following delivery of the requested study, an NSC 96—Meeting on the Strategic Defense Initiative was held on November 30, 1983. The redacted notes begin with Security Advisor Robert McFarlane pointing to the President’s “expressed hope that emerging technologies could allow a shift from sole reliance on strategic offensive forces to defensive capabilities” and indicate that at the meeting, Secretary of Defense Weinberger was to present a briefing on the studies and make his recommendations.

Weinberger Briefing on U.S.-Soviet Programs. At this point, Weinberger briefed on the sharp contrast between the U.S. and Soviet strategic defense. As noted:

We have no BMD system, very little air defense, and essentially no civil defense, but instead base deterrence entirely on M.A.D. with offensive forces. The Soviets, in contrast, have 9,400 deployed SAMs, 2,400 [aircraft] interceptors, one BMD [Ballistic Missile Defense system] deployed and being improved, and a new probably [ABM] Treaty prohibited radar installation . . . in addition to very large offensive forces. The Secretary then characterized the Reagan Program as comprised of Arms Control, Strategic Modernization, and Strategic Defense . . . [and that] the [Defense Anti Ballistic Missile] Program calls for the development of a multi-layered defense system. . . . Effective defense is feasible for deployment in the late 1990s to 2000 . . . [and] earlier deployment of a partial defense should be possible. . . . He recommended Option 2 which would proceed with R&D as fast as technology would allow but hold open any commitment to deployment for at least a year.17

Pros and Cons of MAD. The ensuing discussion revealed pro and con views on the MAD-SDI issue. Secretary of State George Shultz generally agreed with Weinberger’s recommendations, but strongly cautioned about being careful that in presenting SDI, as he said, “The U.S. should not send the message that we think our current strategy [MAD] is wrong; to do so would be disastrous.” ACDA Director Kenneth Adelman warned that three serious “paradoxes” might be invoked by SDI opponents and could develop into “a nest of controversial subjects,” and added that an MX-like debate on MAD would not be useful in 1984. Adelman was rebutted in turn by the President on SDI involving any “arms race” issue, by JCS Chairman Vessey’s reference to SDI for population defense (as well as for military forces), and by Science Advisor George Keyworth on public affairs issues, which Keyworth and Weinberger urged the President to take on. Weinberger’s Deputy, Paul Thayer, indicated a predicted cost of $8 billion for the Defense Ballistic Missile program over the next five years.

Reagan NSDDs on SDI Consultations and Public Diplomacy—December 1983–October 1985. As Reagan’s political opponents and Soviet officials intensified their attacks on SDI, Reagan between December 1983 and October 1985 issued NSDDs 116, 119, 172, and 192 previewed below on the need and nature of thorough consultations with Congress and U.S. Allies and for an extensive public diplomacy campaign on SDI. In this process, NSC staff drafted and coordinated the NSDDs that developed Presidential tasking and themes for these efforts and at the same time coordinated the public diplomacy groups on arms control and defense issues to produce a series of detailed SDI reports, including those reviewed below. The President’s focus was to present the facts on SDI as a research program fully compliant with the ABM Treaty and designed to enable future choices in a transition from the instabilities of MAD to a more stable defense and deterrence.

[Book pg. 305]

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