Overcoming the ABM Treaty: Paths to National Missile Defense   [open pdf - 7MB]

Some of the most heated debates taking place on Capitol Hill surround a proposed American national missile defense system. The debate is not new. For twenty years, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and its underlying acceptance of mutual assured destruction (MAD) enjoyed widespread support among U.S. leaders. Events of the early 1990s shook support for America's "no missile defense" posture to its very core. The fall of the Soviet Union, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile technology, and the Gulf War presented new challenges to existing strategic doctrine. As a result, a renewed push for a U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system began in earnest, and a new round of debates began over the utility of the bilateral ABM Treaty in a multilateral post-Cold War international environment This thesis identifies four distinct paths which the United States could follow in addressing the NMD-ABM Treaty debate. Each path is characterized by distinct factors which historically have influenced past ABM system debates. The most likely path to NMD that the United States is following, based on these driving factors, is identified. The potential implications which this prevalent NMD path may have on U.S. Navy force structure and planning is also addressed. Understanding how the current NMD debate is structured and driven enables one to discern which path to NMD deployment the United States is on. This realization can help shape future force planning considerations.

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