16 August 2001

by Bruce Gagnon

Just as the Pentagon recently changed the name of the School of Americas in Georgia, they are now renaming the components of Star Wars.  Probably for the same reason, the public was getting to familiar with all of the different components of the program like NMD and TMD.

The House Armed Services Committee on August 1 endorsed the Bush Administration's request for $8.2 billion in 2002 ($2.9 billion more than in 2001) for Star Wars research and development.  The Senate Armed Services Committee will make its recommendation after Congress returns in early September.

BMDO: The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, directed by Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, oversees the research, development and testing of all Star Wars systems.

BOOST PHASE SYSTEMS: The Airborne Laser (ABL), formerly a TMD system, and the Space-based laser (SBL) would hit missiles immediately after launch in their boost phase.  The Pentagon is asking for an acceleration of these programs in their 2002 budget request.

MIDCOURSE SYSTEMS:  Ground-based (formerly NMD) and sea-based (formerly known as Navy Theater Wide Defenses) would hit missiles further into space during their midcourse of flight.

TERMINAL SYSTEMS:  Formerly part of TMD, these battlefield launched systems would strike "offending" missiles as they descended toward the target. These systems include PAC-3, Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), Navy Area, Theater High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) and international programs like the Arrow system.

By playing this terminology shell game the Pentagon and Bush Administration make it harder for critics to differentiate between systems like we were able to do with NMD and TMD.  Many Democrats opposed NMD but supported TMD but now the difference is not so clear potentially forcing them to support the whole package.

The Pentagon is also now considering bringing back to life a space-based hit-to-kill program from the early 1990s that was called Brilliant Pebbles. At this time they are calling it an "experimental activity."

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