Excerpts from yesterday's Report of the President's Commission on Strategic Forces:
The Commission has concluded that the preferred approach for modernizing our ICBM force seems to have three components: initiating engineering design of a single-warhead small ICBM, to reduce target value and permit flexibility in basing for better long-term survivability; seeking arms control agreements designed to enhance strategic stability; and deploying MX missiles in existing silos now to satisfy the immediate needs of our ICBM force and to aid that transition.
A more stable structure of ICBM deployments would exist if both sides moved toward more survivable methods of basing than is possible when there is primary dependence on large launchers and missiles. Thus from the point of view of enhancing such stability, the Commission believes that there is considerable merit in moving toward an ICBM force structure in which potential targets are of comparatively low value--missiles containing only one warhead. A single-warhead ICBM, suitably based, inherently denies an attacker the opportunity to destroy more than one warhead with one attacking warhead. The need to have basing flexibility, and particularly the need to keep open the option for different types of mobile basing, also suggests a missile of small size. If force survivability can be additionally increased by arms control agreements which lead both sides toward more survivable modes of basing than is possible with large launchers and missiles, the increase in stability would be further enhanced.
In the meantime, however, deployment of MX is essential in order to remove the Soviet advantage in ICBM capability and to help deter the threat of conventional or limited nuclear attacks on the alliance. Such deployment is also necessary to encourage the Soviets to move toward the more stable regime of deployments and arms control outlined above. Thus it would, through helping to establish such a regime, contribute to the survivability of the small missile force.
The Commission stresses that these two aspects of ICBM modernization and this approach toward arms control are integrally related. They point toward the same objective--permitting the United States and encouraging the Soviets to move toward more stable ICBM deployments over time in a way that is consistent with arms control agreements having the objective of reducing the risk of war. The Commission is unanimous that no one part of the proposed program can accomplish this alone.
1. ICBM Long-term Survivability: Toward the Small, Single-Warhead ICBM
The Commission believes that a single-warhead missile weighing about 15 tons (rather than the nearly 100 tons of MX) may offer greater flexibility in the long-run effort to obtain an ICBM force that is highly survivable, even when viewed in isolation, and that can consequently serve as a hedge against potential threats to the submarine force.
The Commission thus recommends beginning engineering design of such an ICBM, leading to the initiation of full-scale development in 1986 and an initial operating capability in the early 1990s. The design of such a missile, hardened against nuclear effects, can be achieved with current technology. It should have sufficient accuracy and yield to put Soviet hardened military targets at risk. During that period an approach toward arms control, consistent with such deployments, should also seek to encourage the Soviets to move toward a more stable ICBM force structure at levels which would obviate the need to deploy very large numbers of such missiles. The development effort for such a missile need not and should not be burdened with the uncertainties accompanying a crash program; thus its timing can be such that competitive development is feasible.
Decisions about such a small missile and its basing will be influenced by several potential developments: the evolution of Soviet strategic programs, the path of arms control negotiations and agreements, general trends in technology, the cost of the program, operational considerations, and the results of our own research on specific basing modes. Although the small-missile program should be pursued vigorously, the way these uncertainties are resolved will inevitably influence the size and nature of the program. We should keep in mind, however, that having several different modes of deployment may serve our objective of stability. The objective for the United States should be to have an overall program that will so confound, complicate, and frustrate the efforts of Soviet strategic war planners that, even in moments of stress, they could not believe that they could attack our ICBM forces effectively.
Different ICBM deployment modes by the United States would require different types of planned Soviet attacks. Deployment in hardened silos would require the Soviets to plan to use warheads that are large, accurate, or both. Moreover, for those silos or shelters holding a missile with only one warhead, each would present a far less attractive target than would be the case for a large missile with many MIRVs. Mobile deployments would require them to try to barrage large areas using a number of warheads for each of our warheads at risk, to develop very sophisticated intelligence systems, or both. In this context, deployment of a small, single-warhead ICBM in hardened mobile launchers is of particular interest because it could permit deployment in peacetime in limited areas such as military reservations. Land-mobile deployments without hard launchers could be threatened by a relatively small attack--in the absence of an appropriate arms control agreement--unless our own missiles were distributed widely across the country in peacetime. The key advantages of a small single-warhead missile are that it would reduce the value of each strategic target and that it is also compatible with either fixed or mobile deployments, or with combinations of the two.
As discussed below (Section VI), deployment of such small missiles would be compatible with arms control agreements reducing the number of warheads, in which case only a small number of such missiles would probably need to be deployed. If the Soviets proved unwilling to reach such agreements, however, the United States could deploy whatever number of small missiles were required--in whatever mix of basing modes--to maintain an adequate overall deterrent.
2. Immediate ICBM Modernization: Limited Deployment of the MX Missile
a. The MX in Minuteman Silos
There are important needs on several grounds for ICBM modernization that cannot be met by the small, single-warhead ICBM.
First, arms control negotiations--in particular the Soviets' willingness to enter agreements that will enhance stability--are heavily influenced by ongoing programs. The ABM Treaty of 1972, for example, came about only because the United States maintained an ongoing ABM program and indeed made a decision to make a limited deployment. It is illusory to believe that we could obtain a satisfactory agreement with the Soviets limiting ICBM deployments if we unilaterally terminated only the new U.S. ICBM program that could lead to deployment in this decade. Such a termination would effectively communicate to the Soviets that we were unable to neutralize their advantage in multiple-warhead ICBMs. Abandoning the MX at this time in search of a substitute would jeopardize, not enhance, the likelihood of reaching a stabilizing and equitable agreement. It would also undermine the incentives to the Soviets to change the nature of their own ICBM force and thus the environment most conducive to the deployment of a small missile.
Second, effective deterrence is in no small measure a question of the Soviets' perception of our national will and cohesion. Cancelling the MX, when it is ready for flight testing, when over $5 billion have already been spent on it, and when its importance has been stressed by the last four presidents, does not communicate to the Soviets that we have the will essential to effective deterrence. Quite the opposite.
Third, the serious imbalance between the Soviets' massive ability to destroy hardened land-based military targets with their ballistic missile force and our lack of such a capability must be redressed promptly. Our ability to assure our allies that we have the capability and will to stand with them, with whatever forces are necessary, if the alliance is threatened by massive conventional, chemical or biological, or limited nuclear, attack is in question as long as this imbalance exists. Even before the Soviet leaders, in a grave crisis, considered using the first tank regiment or the first SS-20 missile against NATO, they must be required to face what war would mean to them. In order to augment what we would hope would be an inherent sense of conservatism and caution on their part, we must have a credible capability for controlled, prompt, limited attack on hard targets ourselves. This capability casts a shadow over the calculus of Soviet risk-taking at any level of confrontation with the West. Consequently, in the interest of the alliance as a whole, we cannot safely permit a situation to continue wherein the Soviets have the capability promptly to destroy a range of hardened military targets and we do not.
Fourth, our current ICBM force is aging significantly. The Titan II force is being retired for this reason and extensive Minuteman rehabilitation programs are planned to keep those missiles operational.
The existence of a production program for an ICBM of approximately 100 tons is important for two additional reasons. As Soviet ABM modernization and modern surface-to-air missile development and deployment proceed--even within the limitations of the ABM treaty--it is important to be able to match any possible Soviet breakout from that treaty with strategic forces that have the throw-weight to carry sufficient numbers of decoys and other penetration aids; these may be necessary in order to penetrate the Soviet defenses which such a breakout could provide before other compensating steps could be taken. Having in production a missile that could effectively counter such a Soviet step should help deter them from taking it. Moreover, in view of our coming sole reliance on space shuttle orbiters, it would be prudent to have in production a booster, such as MX, tht is of sufficient size to place in orbit at least some of our most strategically important satellites.
These objectives can all be accomplished, at reasonable cost, by deploying MX missiles in current Minuteman silos.
In the judgment of the Commission, the vulnerability of such silos in the near term, viewed in isolation, is not a sufficiently dominant part of the overall problem of ICBM modernization to warrant other immediate steps being taken such as closely spacing new silos or ABM defense of those silos. This is because of the mutual survivability shared by the ICBM force and the bomber force in view of the different types of attacks that would need to be launched at each, as explained above (Section IV-A). In any circumstances other than that of a massive surprise attack on the United States by the Soviet Union, Soviet planners would have to account for the possibility that MX missiles in Minuteman silos would be available for use, and thus they would help deter such attacks. To deter such surprise attacks we can reasonably rely both on our other strategic forces and on the range of operational uncertainties that the Soviets would have to consider in planning such aggression--as long as we have under way a program for long-term ICBM survivability such as that for the small, single-warhead ICBM to hedge against long-term vulnerability for the rest of our forces.
None of the short-term needs for ICBM force modernization set forth above would be met by deploying any missile other than the MX.
The Commission examined the concept of a common missile to serve the function of both the Trident II (D-5) missile, now under development for the Trident submarine, and of MX. At this point such a common missile would essentially be a modified Trident II. But deployment of that missile as an ICBM would not only lag several years behind the MX, its payload at the full ICBM range would be reduced. A sufficiently larger number of Trident II missiles would need to be deployed in order to have the same number of warheads as the MX force that there would be no cost savings.
The Commission also assessed the possibility of improving the guidance on the Minuteman ICBM to the level of accuracy being developed for the MX. Such a step, however, would take some two to three years longer than production of the MX and would not redress the perceived imbalance between U.S. and Soviet capabilities. The wisdom of placing new guidance systems on the front ends of aging 1960s-era missiles is highly questionable. Moreover, shifting to such a program at this point would not provide the increased throw-weight needed to hedge either against Soviet ABM improvements or against the need to launch satellites in an emergency. Most importantly, a Minuteman modification program would not provide the incentive to the Soviets to negotiate that would be provided by production of the MX.
A program of deploying on the order of 100 MX missiles in existing Minuteman silos would, on the other hand, accomplish the objectives set forth in this section and it would do so without threatening stability. The throw-weight and megatonnage carried by the 100 MX missiles is about the same as that of the 54 large Titan missiles now being retired plus that of the 100 Minuteman III missiles that the MXs would replace. Such a deployment would thus represent a replacement and modernization of part of our ICBM force. It would provide a means of controlled limited attack on hardened targets but not a sufficient number of warheads to be able to attack all hardened Soviet ICBMs, much less all of the many command posts and other hardened military targets in the Soviet Union. Thus it would not match the overall capability of the recent Soviet deployment of over 600 modern ICBMs of MX size or larger. But a large deployment of several hundred MX missiles should be unnecessary for the limited but very important purposes set forth above. Should the Soviets refuse to engage in stabilizing arms control and engage instead in major new deployments, reconsideration of this and other conclusions would be necessary.