"The development and deployment of missile defenses has not only been elusive, but has proven to be one of the most divisive issues of the past generation. The Bush administration requested significant funding increases for missile defense programs, eliminated the distinction between national and theater missile defense, restructured the missile defense program to focus more directly on developing deployment options for a 'layered' capability to intercept missiles aimed at U.S. territory across the whole spectrum of their flight path, adopted a new, untried development and acquisition strategy, announced U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty, and is planning to deploy an initial missile defense capability by 2004-2005. The Administration argued these steps were necessary in response to growing concerns over the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. Critics argue that the technology for effective missile defense remains immature, that deployment is provocative to allies, friends, and adversaries, and it is a budget-buster that reduces the availability of funds to modernize and operate U.S. conventional military forces. They argue especially that major powers will view U.S. missile defense as an attempt at strategic domination and that some, such as China, will expand its missile capabilities in response. The Bush Administration's plans raise a number of issues, many of which are examined in this report. The issues that will continue to receive attention are 1) ballistic missile proliferation; 2) a new acquisition concept for developing missile defense that does not lend itself readily to oversight, system definition, or cost and effectiveness analysis; and, 3) the deployment of a mid-course missile defense system in Alaska and California."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31111