Conventional Prompt Global Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues [December 8, 2011] [open pdf - 412KB]
"Prompt global strike (PGS) would allow the United States to strike targets anywhere on Earth with conventional weapons in as little as an hour. This capability may bolster U.S. efforts to deter and defeat adversaries by allowing the United States to attack high-value targets or 'fleeting targets' at the start of or during a conflict. Congress has generally supported the PGS mission, but it has restricted funding and suggested some changes in funding for specific programs. Many analysts believe that the United States should use long-range ballistic missiles armed with conventional warheads for the PGS mission. These weapons would not substitute for nuclear weapons in the U.S. war plan but would, instead, provide a 'niche' capability, with a small number of weapons directed against select, critical targets, which might expand the range of U.S. conventional options. Some analysts, however, have raised concerns about the possibility that U.S. adversaries might misinterpret the launch of a missile with conventional warheads and conclude that the missiles carry nuclear weapons. […] These include not only ballistic missiles and boost-glide systems, but also bombers, cruise missiles, and possibly scramjets or other advanced technologies. Finally, Congress is likely to question how the New START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] Treaty, signed by the United States and Russia in April 2010, would affect U.S. plans for the CPGS [conventional prompt global strike] mission. Warheads deployed on boost-glide systems would not be affected by the treaty because these are new types of strategic offensive arms. But those deployed in existing types of reentry vehicles on existing types of ballistic missiles, like the Navy's CTM [Conventional Trident modification] program, would count against the treaty limits. This report will be updated as needed."
CRS Report for Congress, R41464