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

in March 1983. At the same time, Reagan’s NSC-led interdepartmental system also assessed and reported on the mounting asymmetries in Soviet and U.S. space and strategic defense programs and the pattern of Soviet violations of its treaty obligations.

U.S. Intelligence Estimate on Soviet Strategic Defense Costs—January 1981. As Reagan and his team were entering office, they may well have noted the magnitude of Soviet strategic defense investment estimated at 25 times that of the U.S. A U.S. intelligence report SR–81–10005—Soviet and US. Defense Activities, 1971–80: A Dollar Cost Comparison, dated January 1981, is excerpted as follows:

Estimated costs of Soviet forces for strategic defense, a major part of the Soviet strategic mission, comprised roughly 40 percent of the dollar costs of all strategic forces during the period. US strategic defense, on the other hand, accounted for less than 15 percent of US strategic mission outlays and declined continuously throughout the period. As a result, the dollar cost of Soviet strategic defense activities increased from five times US outlays in 1971 to almost 25 times US outlays at the end of the period. Soviet strategic defense activities will continue to grow in the early 1980s as the USSR introduces a new generation of interceptor aircraft and surface-to-air missiles.7

Soviet Military Power—September 1981. Early public Reagan reports on offensive and defensive Soviet strategic defense programs are found in a series published by the Department of Defense and coordinated through the NSC system that began in September 1981 with Soviet Military Power—1981 and updated each year thereafter with increasing domestic and international impact. The 1981 edition focuses heavily on Soviet offensive forces with newly declassified information, including graphics, photos, and illustrations and only makes passing references to Soviet anti-missile and space programs. Future editions made missile defense a key subject, and any reader would have understood quickly why a vigorous U.S. strategic defense program, including deployment of national anti-missile capabilities, should be considered a defense priority for a U.S.  administration.

NSDD 12 on Modernizing U.S. Strategic Offense and Defense—October 1981. Reagan’s first year assessment of U.S.-Soviet strategic offensive force asymmetries and his early decisions on required U.S. strategic force modernization in the face of the relentless Soviet offensive strategic buildup are detailed in Chapter 12, but are relevant here as well. Thus NSDD 12—Strategic Forces Modernization Program, issued on October 1, 1981, makes clear long before Reagan’s March 23, 1983 speech that announced SDI that strategic defense must be integrated into U.S. strategic modernization strategy as one of “five mutually reinforcing parts”:

[1] [to] help redress the deteriorated strategic balance . . . [2] a deterrent that is far more secure and stable than our present nuclear forces . . . [and] more resilient . . . [and] [3] in turn [to] create better incentives for the Soviets to negotiate genuine arms reductions . . . and [4] improving strategic defenses . . . air and space defenses . . . [a] vigorous research and development program, [and] an expanded cost effective civil defense program and [5] a new . . . land-based ballistic-missile.8

A U.S. Intelligence Assessment of Soviet ABM Programs—1982. A significant analysis focused on the Soviet Union’s missile defense doctrine and programs’ great differences from the U.S. MAD-based approach is NIE 11–13–82—Soviet Ballistic Missile Defense, issued on October 13, 1982. Its key judgments included the following:

They are steadily improving their ability to exercise options for deployment of widespread ballistic missile defenses in the 1980s. . . . The Soviets probably consider that they are much better able to prosecute a nuclear war than they were in 1972. To reduce damage to the USSR in accordance with their doctrine and strategy for nuclear war, the Soviets are continuing to improve their counterforce capabilities and survivability of their offensive forces, to strengthen their air defenses and antisubmarine warfare forces, and to expand their passive defenses. . . . An assessment by the Soviets of the correlation of strategic forces would indicate that the continuing vulnerability of the USSR to ballistic missile attack is a deficiency they would want to reduce. . . . The Soviets would probably view their ballistic missile defenses as having considerable value in reducing the impact of a degraded U.S. retaliatory attack if the USSR succeeded in carrying out a well-coordinated, effective initial strike.9

NSDD 75 on U.S.-Soviet Relations—January 1983. Reagan’s foundational NSDD 75—U.S. Relations with the USSR, issued on January 17, 1983, was the product of a year-long NSC review and an authoritative statement of Reagan’s new overall Cold War strategy. Issued a few weeks before Reagan’s public SDI announce-

[Book pg. 302]