Strategic Defenses and the Transition to Assured Survival

by Glenn A. Kent, Randall J. DeValk

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This report details the anatomy and calculus of the ballistic missile portion of the transition to a robust nationwide strategic defense posture, as proposed by President Reagan on March 23, 1983. To provide insight into the policy issues surrounding the transition, the authors develop an analytic format based on ballistic missile "defense potential." The defense potential format demonstrates that, if highly survivable strategic defenses were deployed as an adjunct to current superpower ballistic missile forces, the United States could make the transition to the President's goal of assured survival from ballistic missile attack without having to pass through a period during which either the United States or the Soviet Union would have great incentive to launch a first strike against the other. However, if the defenses are vulnerable to attack and/or if both superpowers continue to deploy weapons capable of destroying hard targets but fail to adopt corresponding offensive force survivability measures, a stable transition would become less likely.

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