The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Statement of

General Joseph W. Ralston

Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

before the

Senate Armed Services Committee

October 2, 1998


Chairman Thurmond, Senator Levin, distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss missile defense. 

Defending our men and women in uniform, and the American people, from enemy missile attack is particularly challenging. Our overseas military forces face a theater ballistic missile threat today as well as an emerging medium range ballistic missile threat from Iran and North Korea. Our country faces a threat from intercontinental ballistic missiles either in the hands of a rogue nation or from an accidental or unauthorized launch. The issue is further complicated by the challenge of defeating a future cruise missile threat that could be very difficult to detect and kill.  

These are tough problems that the Department has been working very hard, and we think we are making good progress in solving them. We are entering a critical phase in the development of our missile defense programs, as we will see live fire flight tests in many of them in the near future. I see our missile defense efforts being developed in three major areas and would like to discuss each of them today.  

Theater Missile Defense 

The Joint Chiefs remain very concerned with the increasing theater ballistic missile threat. The Department is pursuing a multi-layered approach, consisting of lower tier, upper tier, and boost phase intercept systems. The lower tier systems provide point defense around specific areas to intercept missiles that leak through or cannot be engaged by the upper tier or boost phase systems. The upper tier and boost phase systems bring wide area coverage to the missile defense architecture by reaching out to engage enemy missiles early in flight even over their own territory. Together these systems provide early and repeated engagements to achieve the level of protection required by the warfighting commanders-in-chief. Our missile defense architecture includes a wide spectrum of capabilities, with contributions from air, sea, and land based systems.

This allows us to engage and destroy ballistic missiles in every phase of flight and the flexibility to engage in every phase of conflict, from crisis to a fully developed theater of war. 

The Joint Chiefs have established the lower tier systems, Patriot PAC-3 and Navy Area Defense System (NADS), as the highest priority because they address the preponderance of the threat and are the fastest way to improve the missile defense for our troops. Consistent with these priorities, we will field the lower tier systems whenever they complete sufficient testing to give us confidence in their ability to work in an operational environment. 

The upper tier systems, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the Navy Theater Wide System (NTW), extend the capability of our missile defense architecture to address the emerging medium range ballistic missile threats of Iran and North Korea. This is a critical defensive capability that we cannot afford to be without.

Boost phase intercept using the Airborne Laser (ABL) is the outer layer of our defense. The ABL brings revolutionary technology to engage enemy missiles in the boost phase, which makes it unique among our ballistic missile defense systems. It allows engagement of enemy TBMs in the earliest phase of flight. Initial laboratory tests are encouraging and the Department has adopted a prudent demonstration of performance approach to manage the risks prior to an engineering and manufacturing development decision. 

Cruise Missile Defense

The Joint Requirements Oversight Committee (JROC) has directed that the cruise missile defense plan meet DIA projected threats and also position the Department to meet an earlier emergence of a more stressing cruise missile threat. The Department established a new management structure for theater air and missile defense activities with the January 1997 creation of the Joint Theater Air and Missile Defense Organization (JTAMDO). JTAMDO, in close coordination with the CINCs, Services, OSD, and BMDO, has developed a cruise missile defense architecture and supporting acquisition strategy. It provides for a hedge against the early emergence of a stressing cruise missile threat, while building to meet the large number of threats expected in 2010. This same architecture will provide a significant increase in our capability against the entire range of air breathing threats. The architecture builds from today's capabilities by adding advanced technologies and new operational concepts to create a multi-layered defense against the cruise missile threat. 

The Theater Air and Missile Defense Master Plan to be published this fall will describe the architecture, technologies, operational concepts, and acquisition strategy to achieve this 2010 capability. The plan calls for the hedge to consist of upgrades to the Patriot PAC-3 surface-to-air missile system, as well as to F-15 radars, AWACS radars, and the AMRAAM missile. When combined with the capability inherent in the AEGIS weapon system this provides both a critical asset defense and a limited area defense. The development and deployment of advanced radar technologies and fighters will increase our capability to an area defense. By 2010, the plan calls for further expansion of the Department's capabilities to a wide area cruise missile defense. This will be achieved through very long-range Patriot and Standard Missile engagements using airborne fire control radars to direct surface-to-air missiles in a concept known as Air-Directed-Surface-to-Air Missile (ADSAM). 

National Missile Defense 

In August 1996 the JROC validated the requirement to defend all of the United States against a rogue nation missile attack, while providing some capability against a small accidental or unauthorized launch from Russia or China. This marked an evolution in requirements from a focus on a massive Soviet raid to defeating small numbers of incoming missiles.  

An NMD deployment schedule rests on three factors: threat, technology, and affordability. Much debate has occurred about when our adversaries will field a missile that threatens the United States. Presently our deployment schedule is driven by technology, not by threat. Our programs are designed to give us the capability to deploy defensive systems as soon as it is technologically practical. The National Missile Defense program is currently one of acknowledged high schedule risk, with the pace of missile flight tests leaving little margin for error. Even with additional funding, NMD development and deployment cannot proceed any faster than the current schedule. Once we reach the point where our technology provides a capability, and we know the associated costs, we can make a prudent deployment decision. 

ABM Treaty 

I believe that the ABM Treaty does not at this time hinder development of our national missile defense programs. All currently planned NMD tests are treaty compliant and still allow us to assess the full performance capability of the developmental systems. The ABM Treaty may, however, have to be modified to support an NMD deployment that best meets operational requirements. The timing of Treaty negotiations holds the potential to affect deployment schedules. Treaty modification issues may need to be fully addressed and evaluated as early as December 1999, and negotiations completed by May of 2000 if we expect to be able to execute a deployment decision in FY 00 leading to a 2003 deployed capability. 


The Department continues to face tough decisions in every area of missile defense. With this Committee's continued support, we look forward to achieving a robust theater, cruise, and national missile defense capability.


Join the mailing list