Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States
II. Executive Summary
A. Conclusions of the Commissioners
The nine Commissioners are unanimous in concluding that:
* Concerted efforts by a number of overtly or potentially hostile
nations to acquire ballistic missiles with biological or nuclear
payloads pose a growing threat to the United States, its deployed
forces and its friends and allies. These newer, developing threats in
North Korea, Iran and Iraq are in addition to those still posed by the
existing ballistic missile arsenals of Russia and China, nations with
which the United States is not now in conflict but which remain in
uncertain transitions. The newer ballistic missile-equipped nations'
capabilities will not match those of U.S. systems for accuracy or
reliability. However, they would be able to inflict major destruction
on the U.S. within about five years of a decision to acquire such a
capability (10 years in the case of Iraq). During several of those
years, the U.S. might not be aware that such a decision had been made.
* The threat to the U.S. posed by these emerging capabilities is
broader, more mature and evolving more rapidly than has been reported
in estimates and reports by the Intelligence Community.
* The Intelligence Community's ability to provide timely and accurate
estimates of ballistic missile threats to the U.S. is eroding. This
erosion has roots both within and beyond the intelligence process
itself. The Community's capabilities in this area need to be
strengthened in terms of both resources and methodology.
* The warning times the U.S. can expect of new, threatening ballistic
missile deployments are being reduced. Under some plausible
scenarios--including re-basing or transfer of operational missiles,
sea- and air-launch options, shortened development programs that might
include testing in a third country, or some combination of these--the
U.S. might well have little or no warning before operational
Therefore, we unanimously recommend that U.S. analyses, practices and
policies that depend on expectations of extended warning of deployment be
reviewed and, as appropriate, revised to reflect the reality of an
environment in which there may be little or no warning.
B. The Commission and Its Methods
The Commissioners brought to their task the perspectives of former senior
policymakers from outside the Intelligence Community who have decades of
experience and a variety of views as users of the Intelligence Community's
products. We shared an informed understanding of intelligence processes. In
making our assessment, we took into account not only the hard data
available, but also the often significant gaps in that data. We had access
to both data and experts drawn from the full array of departments and
agencies as well as from sources throughout the Intelligence Community. We
also drew on experts from outside that Community and on studies sponsored
by the Commission. Our aim was to ensure that we were exposed to a wide
range of opinion and to the greatest possible depth and breadth of
We began this study with different views about how to respond to ballistic
missile threats, and we continue to have differences. Nevertheless, as a
result of our intensive study over the last six months we are unanimous in
our assessment of the threat, an assessment which differs from published
This divergence between the Commission's findings and authoritative
estimates by the Intelligence Community stems primarily from our use of a
somewhat more comprehensive methodology in assessing ballistic missile
development and deployment programs. We believe that our approach takes
more fully into account three crucial factors now shaping new ballistic
missile threats to the United States:
* Newer ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
development programs no longer follow the patterns initially set by
the U.S. and the Soviet Union. These programs require neither high
standards of missile accuracy, reliability and safety nor large
numbers of missiles and therefore can move ahead more rapidly.
* A nation that wants to develop ballistic missiles and weapons of mass
destruction can now obtain extensive technical assistance from outside
sources. Foreign assistance is not a wild card. It is a fact.
* Nations are increasingly able to conceal important elements of their
ballistic missile and associated WMD programs and are highly motivated
to do so.
C. New Threats in a Transformed Security Environment
The Commission did not assess nuclear, biological and chemical weapons
programs on a global basis. We considered those countries about which we
felt particular reason to be concerned and examined their capabilities to
acquire ballistic missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction.
All of the nations whose programs we examined that are developing
long-range ballistic missiles have the option to arm these, as well as
their shorter range systems, with biological or chemical weapons. These
weapons can take the form of bomblets as well as a single, large warhead.
The knowledge needed to design and build a nuclear weapon is now
widespread. The emerging ballistic missile powers have access to, or are
pursuing the acquisition of, the needed fissile material both through
domestic efforts and foreign channels.
As our work went forward, it became increasingly clear to us that nations
about which the U.S. has reason to be concerned are exploiting a
dramatically transformed international security environment. That
environment provides an ever-widening access to technology, information and
expertise that can be and is used to speed both the development and
deployment of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. It can
also be used to develop denial and deception techniques that seek to impede
U.S. intelligence gathering about the development and deployment programs
of those nations.
1. Geopolitical Change and Role for Ballistic Missiles
A number of countries with regional ambitions do not welcome the U.S. role
as a stabilizing power in their regions and have not accepted it passively.
Because of their ambitions, they want to place restraints on the U.S.
capability to project power or influence into their regions. They see the
acquisition of missile and WMD technology as a way of doing so.
Since the end of the Cold War, the geopolitical environment and the roles
of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction have both evolved.
Ballistic missiles provide a cost-effective delivery system that can be
used for both conventional and non-conventional weapons. For those seeking
to thwart the projection of U.S. power, the capability to combine ballistic
missiles with weapons of mass destruction provides a strategic counter to
U.S. conventional and information-based military superiority. With such
weapons, these nations can pose a serious threat to the United States, to
its forward-based forces and their staging areas and to U.S. friends and
Whether short- or long-range, a successfully launched ballistic missile has
a high probability of delivering its payload to its target compared to
other means of delivery. Emerging powers therefore see ballistic missiles
as highly effective deterrent weapons and as an effective means of coercing
or intimidating adversaries, including the United States.
With regard to Russia, the principal cloud over the future is lingering
political uncertainty. Despite enormous changes since the break-up of the
Soviet Union, Russia is in an uncertain, in some ways precarious,
transition. It may succeed in establishing a stable democracy allied with
the West in maintaining peace and extending freedom. Or it may not. Or it
might be torn by internal struggles for an extended period. In its present
situation, accurate U.S. intelligence estimates are difficult to make.
Russia continues to pose a ballistic missile threat to the United States,
although of a different character than in the past. The number of missiles
in its inventory is likely to decline further compared with Cold War levels
in that large numbers of Soviet strategic missiles deployed in the 1970s
and 1980s are scheduled to be retired. Still, Russian ballistic missile
forces continue to be modernized and improved, although the pace of
modernization has been slowed from planned schedules by economic
constraints. The Russian ballistic missile early warning system and nuclear
command and control (C2) system have also been affected by aging and delays
in planned modernization. In the context of a crisis growing out of civil
strife, present early warning and C2 weaknesses could pose a risk of
unauthorized or inadvertent launch of missiles against the United States. 1
With the Cold War ended, the likelihood of a deliberate missile attack on
the U.S. from Russia has been greatly lessened but not entirely eliminated.
However, Russia's leaders issued a new national security policy in 1993
that places greater reliance on nuclear deterrence, very likely in response
to Russia's economic difficulties and decline in its conventional military
capabilities. At the same time, the risk of an accident or of a loss of
control over Russian ballistic missile forces--a risk which now appears
small--could increase sharply and with little warning if the political
situation in Russia were to deteriorate.
Also, quite apart from these risks, Russia poses a threat to the U.S. as a
major exporter of enabling technologies, including ballistic missile
technologies, to countries hostile to the United States. In particular,
Russian assistance has greatly accelerated Iran's ballistic missile
As in the case of Russia, China's future is clouded by a range of
uncertainties. China, too, is going through a transition, but one which has
been going on for 20 years. The improvement in Sino-U.S. relations,
interrupted in 1989, has resumed. Although the U.S. and China are
developing a more cooperative relationship, significant potential conflicts
remain, and China is less constrained today by fear of Russia than it once
was by fear of the Soviet Union. Taiwan is an obvious potential flashpoint.
Other flashpoints could arise as China pursues its drive for greater
influence in Asia and the Western Pacific. Even now China has conflicts
with several of its neighbors, some of which could involve the U.S. in a
China is modernizing its long-range missiles and nuclear weapons in ways
that will make it a more threatening power in the event of a crisis.
China's 1995-96 missile firings in the Taiwan Strait, aimed at intimidating
Taiwan in the lead-up to its presidential election, provoked a sharp
confrontation with the United States. For example, a pointed question was
posed by Lt. Gen. Xiong Guang Kai, a frequent spokesman for Chinese policy,
about U.S. willingness to trade Los Angeles for Taipei. This comment seemed
designed to link China's ballistic missile capabilities with its regional
China also poses a threat to the U.S. as a significant proliferator of
ballistic missiles, weapons of mass destruction and enabling technologies.
It has carried out extensive transfers to Iran's solid-fueled ballistic
missile program. It has supplied Pakistan with a design for a nuclear
weapon and additional nuclear weapons assistance. It has even transferred
complete ballistic missile systems to Saudi Arabia (the 3,100-km-range
CSS-2) and Pakistan (the 350-km-range M-11).
The behavior thus far of Russia and China makes it appear unlikely, albeit
for different reasons--strategic, political, economic or some combination
of all three--that either government will soon effectively reduce its
country's sizable transfer of critical technologies, experts or expertise
to the emerging ballistic missile powers.
4. Countries With Scud-Based Missile Infrastructures
The basis of most missile developments by emerging ballistic missile powers
is the Soviet Scud missile and its derivatives. The Scud is derived from
the World War II-era German V-2 rocket. With the external help now readily
available, a nation with a well-developed, Scud-based ballistic missile
infrastructure would be able to achieve first flight of a long-range
missile, up to and including intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
range, 2 within about five years of deciding to do so. During several of
those years the U.S. might not be aware that such a decision had been made.
Early production models would probably be limited in number. They would be
unlikely to meet U.S. standards of safety, accuracy and reliability. But
the purposes of these nations would not require such standards. A larger
force armed with scores of missiles and warheads and meeting higher
operational standards would take somewhat longer to test, produce and
deploy. But meanwhile, even a few of the simpler missiles could be highly
effective for the purposes of those countries.
The extraordinary level of resources North Korea and Iran are now devoting
to developing their own ballistic missile capabilities poses a substantial
and immediate danger to the U.S., its vital interests and its allies. While
these nations' missile programs may presently be aimed primarily at
regional adversaries, they inevitably and inescapably engage the vital
interests of the U.S. as well. Their targeted adversaries include key U.S.
friends and allies. U.S. deployed forces are already at risk from these
nations' growing arsenals. Each of these nations places a high priority on
threatening U.S. territory, and each is even now pursuing advanced
ballistic missile capabilities to pose a direct threat to U.S. territory.
a. North Korea
There is evidence that North Korea is working hard on the Taepo Dong 2
(TD-2) ballistic missile. The status of the system's development cannot be
determined precisely. Nevertheless, the ballistic missile test
infrastructure in North Korea is well developed. Once the system is
assessed to be ready, a test flight could be conducted within six months of
a decision to do so. If North Korea judged the test to be a success, the
TD-2 could be deployed rapidly. It is unlikely the U.S. would know of such
a decision much before the missile was launched. This missile could reach
major cities and military bases in Alaska and the smaller, westernmost
islands in the Hawaiian chain. Light-weight variations of the TD-2 could
fly as far as 10,000 km, placing at risk western U.S. territory in an arc
extending northwest from Phoenix, Arizona, to Madison, Wisconsin. These
variants of the TD-2 would require additional time to develop and would
likely require an additional flight test.
North Korea has developed and deployed the No Dong, a medium-range
ballistic missile 3 (MRBM) using a scaled-up Scud engine, which is capable
of flying 1,300 km. With this missile, North Korea can threaten Japan,
South Korea and U.S. bases in the vicinity of North Korea. North Korea has
reportedly tested the No Dong only once, in 1993. The Commission judges
that the No Dong was operationally deployed long before the U.S. Government
recognized that fact. There is ample evidence that North Korea has created
a sizable missile production infrastructure, and therefore it is highly
likely that considerable numbers of No Dongs have been produced.
In light of the considerable difficulties the Intelligence Community
encountered in assessing the pace and scope of the No Dong missile program,
the U.S. may have very little warning prior to the deployment of the Taepo
North Korea maintains an active WMD program, including a nuclear weapon
program. It is known that North Korea diverted material in the late 1980s
for at least one or possibly two weapons. North Korea's ongoing nuclear
program activity raises the possibility that it could produce additional
nuclear weapons. North Korea also possesses biological weapons production
and dispensing technology, including the capability to deploy chemical or
biological warheads on missiles.
North Korea also poses a major threat to American interests, and
potentially to the United States itself, because it is a major proliferator
of the ballistic missile capabilities it possesses--missiles, technology,
technicians, transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) and underground facility
expertise--to other countries of missile proliferation concern. These
countries include Iran, Pakistan and others.
Iran is placing extraordinary emphasis on its ballistic missile and WMD
development programs. The ballistic missile infrastructure in Iran is now
more sophisticated than that of North Korea, and has benefited from broad,
essential, long-term assistance from Russia and important assistance from
China as well. Iran is making very rapid progress in developing the Shahab
3 MRBM, which like the North Korean No Dong has a range of 1,300 km. This
missile may be flight tested at any time and deployed soon thereafter.
The Commission judges that Iran now has the technical capability and
resources to demonstrate an ICBM-range ballistic missile, similar to the
TD-2 (based on scaled-up Scud technology), within five years of a decision
to proceed--whether that decision has already been made or is yet to be
In addition to this Scud-based long-range ballistic missile program, Iran
has acquired and is seeking major, advanced missile components that can be
combined to produce ballistic missiles with sufficient range to strike the
United States. For example, Iran is reported to have acquired engines or
engine designs for the RD-214 engine, which powered the Soviet SS-4 MRBM
and served as the first stage of the SL-7 space-launch vehicle. Iran is
known to have an interest in even more advanced engines. A 10,000 km-range
Iranian missile could hold the U.S. at risk in an arc extending northeast
of a line from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to St. Paul, Minnesota.
Iran has also developed a solid-fueled rocket infrastructure; it already
produces short-range solid-fueled rockets. It is seeking long-range missile
technology from outside sources, purportedly for a space-launch vehicle.
Both contribute directly to Iran's ballistic missile technology base. Iran
is known to rely heavily on imports of missile technology from foreign
sources, particularly Russia and North Korea. These imports have allowed
Iran's missile programs to proceed swiftly, and they can be incorporated
into Iran's domestic infrastructure as well.
Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction. It has a nuclear energy and
weapons program which aims to design, develop and, as soon as possible,
produce nuclear weapons. The Commission judges that the only issue as to
whether or not Iran may soon have or already has a nuclear weapon is the
amount of fissile material available to it. Because of significant gaps in
our knowledge, the U.S. is unlikely to know whether Iran possesses nuclear
weapons until after the fact. While Iran's civil nuclear program is
currently under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, it
could be used as a source of sufficient fissile material to construct a
small number of weapons within the next 10 years if Iran were willing to
violate safeguards. If Iran were to accumulate enough fissile material from
foreign sources, it might be able to develop a nuclear weapon in only one
to three years. Iran also has an active chemical weapon development and
production program and is conducting research into biological weapons.
Iraq has maintained the skills and industrial capabilities needed to
reconstitute its long-range ballistic missile program. Its plant and
equipment are less developed than those of North Korea or Iran as a result
of actions forced by United Nations (U.N.) Resolutions and monitoring.
However, Iraq has actively continued work on short-range (under 150 km)
liquid- and solid-fueled missiles, programs allowed by the U.N.
Resolutions. Once U.N.-imposed controls are lifted, Iraq could mount a
determined effort to acquire needed plant and equipment, whether directly
or indirectly. Such an effort would allow Iraq to pose an ICBM threat to
the United States within 10 years. Iraq could develop a shorter range,
covert, ship-launched missile threat that could threaten the United States
in a very short time.
Iraq had a large, intense ballistic missile development and production
program prior to the Gulf War. The Iraqis produced Scuds and then modified
Scud missiles to produce the 600-km-range Al Hussein and 900-km-range Al
Abbas missiles. The expertise, as well as some of the equipment and
materials from this program remain in Iraq and provide a strong foundation
for a revived ballistic missile program.
Prior to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Iraq could have had nuclear
weapons in the 1993-1995 time frame, although it still had technical
hurdles to overcome. After the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq began a crash
program to produce a nuclear device in six to nine months based on highly
enriched uranium removed from the safeguarded reactor at Tuwaitha. Iraq has
the capability to reconstitute its nuclear weapon program; the speed at
which it can do so depends on the availability of fissile material. It
would take several years to build the required production facilities from
scratch. It is possible that Iraq has hidden some material from U.N.
Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspection or that it could acquire fissile
material abroad (from another "rogue" state, for example). Iraq also had
large chemical and biological weapons programs prior to the war and
produced chemical and biological warheads for its missiles. Knowledge,
personnel and equipment related to WMD remain in Iraq so that it could
reconstitute these programs rapidly following the end of sanctions.
India is developing a number of ballistic missiles from short-range to
those with ICBM-class capabilities, along with a submarine-launched
ballistic missile (SLBM) and a short-range, surface ship-launched system.
India has the infrastructure to develop and produce these missiles. It is
aggressively seeking technology from other states, particularly Russia.
While it develops its long-range ballistic missiles, India's space-launch
vehicles provide an option for an interim ICBM capability. India has
detonated several nuclear devices, and it is clear that it is developing
warheads for its missile systems. India has biological and chemical weapons
programs. Since the Pakistani nuclear tests, India has announced its
intention t o increase its spending on missiles and nuclear weapons.
India's program to develop ballistic missiles began in 1983 and grew out of
its space-launch program, which was based on Scout rocket technology
acquired from the United States. India currently has developed and deployed
the Prithvi short-range ballistic missile 4 (SRBM), and is developing
longer range, liquid- and solid-fueled missiles. They include the Prithvi
II SRBM, the Agni, Agni-Plus and Agni-B intermediate-range ballistic
missiles 5 (IRBMs), a sea-launched ballistic missile and an SLBM, the
India detonated a nuclear device in 1974, conducted a test series in May
1998, and it is clear that it is developing warheads for its missile
systems. Indian leaders recently declared that India has developed nuclear
weapons for deployment on the Prithvi SRBM and the Agni Plus MRBM.
India has acquired and continues to seek Russian, U.S. and Western European
technology for its missile programs. Technology and expertise acquired from
other states, particularly from Russia, are helping India to accelerate the
development and increase the sophistication of its missile systems. For
example, Russian assistance is critical to the development of the Indian
SLBM and its related submarine. But India is rapidly enhancing its own
missile science and technology base as well. Many Indian nationals are
educated and work in the U.S., Europe and other advanced nations; some of
the knowledge thereby acquired returns to the Indian missile program. While
India continues to benefit from foreign technology and expertise, its
programs and industrial base are now sufficiently advanced that supplier
control regimes can affect only the rate of acceleration in India's
programs. India is in a position to supply material and technical
assistance to others.
Pakistan's ballistic missile infrastructure is now more advanced than that
of North Korea. It will support development of a missile of 2,500-km range,
which we believe Pakistan will seek in order to put all of India within
range of Pakistani missiles. The development of a 2,500-km missile will
give Pakistan the technical base for developing a much longer range missile
system. Through foreign acquisition, and beginning without an extensive
domestic science and technology base, Pakistan has acquired these missile
capabilities quite rapidly. China and North Korea are Pakistan's major
sources of ballistic missiles, production facilities and technology.
Pakistan currently possesses nuclear-capable M-11 SRBMs acquired from
China, and it may produce its own missile, the Tarmuk, based on the M-11.
In 1998, Pakistan tested and deployed the 1,300-km-Ghauri MRBM, a version
of the North Korean No Dong, and the Commission believes Pakistan has
acquired production facilities for this missile as well.
Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons that employ highly-enriched uranium and
conducted its first nuclear weapon test series in May 1998. A new Pakistani
nuclear reactor has been completed that could be used for the production of
plutonium. In addition to its nuclear weapons, Pakistan has biological and
chemical weapons programs. Chinese assistance has been crucial to
Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.
India and Pakistan are not hostile to the United States. The prospect of
U.S. military confrontation with either seems at present to be slight.
However, beyond the possibility of nuclear war on the subcontinent, their
aggressive, competitive development of ballistic missiles and weapons of
mass destruction poses three concerns in particular. First, it enables them
to supply relevant technologies to other nations. Second, India and
Pakistan may seek additional technical assistance through cooperation with
their current major suppliers--India from Russia, Pakistan from North Korea
and China--because of the threats they perceive from one another and
because of India's anxieties about China, combined with their mounting
international isolation. Third, their growing missile and WMD capabilities
have direct effects on U.S. policies, both regional and global, and could
significantly affect U.S. capability to play a stabilizing role in Asia.
D. A New Non-Proliferation Environment
Since the end of the Cold War a number of developments have made ballistic
missile and WMD technologies increasingly available. They include:
* A number of nations have chosen not to join non-proliferation
* Some participants in those agreements have cheated.
* As global trade has steadily expanded, access has increased to the
information, technology and technicians needed for missile and WMD
* Access to technologies used in early generations of U.S. and Soviet
missiles has eased. However rudimentary compared to present U.S.
standards, these technologies serve the needs of emerging ballistic
* Among those countries of concern to the U.S., commerce in ballistic
missile and WMD technology and hardware has been growing, which may
make proliferation self-sustaining among them and facilitate their
ability to proliferate technology and hardware to others.
Some countries which could have readily acquired nuclear weapons and
ballistic missiles--such as Germany, Japan and South Korea--have been
successfully encouraged not to do so by U.S. security guarantees and by
non-proliferation agreements. Even though they lack such security
guarantees, other countries have also joined non-proliferation agreements
and abandoned development programs and weapons systems. Some examples are
Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and the former Soviet republics of Belarus,
Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
1. Increased Competence of and Trade Among Emerging Ballistic Missile
Conversely, there are other countries--some of which are themselves parties
to various non-proliferation agreements and treaties--that either have
acquired ballistic missile or WMD capabilities or are working hard to do
so. North Korea, Iran and Iraq, as well as India and Pakistan, are at the
forefront of this group. They now have increased incentives to cooperate
with one another. They have extensive access to technology, information and
expertise from developed countries such as Russia and China. They also have
access through commercial and other channels in the West, including the
United States. Through this trade and their own indigenous efforts, these
second-tier powers are on the verge of being able to provide to one
another, if they have not already done so, the capabilities needed to
develop long-range ballistic missiles.
2. U.S. as a Contributor to Proliferation
The U.S. is the world's leading developer and user of advanced technology.
Once it is transferred by the U.S. or by another developed country, there
is no way to ensure that the transferred technology will not be used for
hostile purposes. The U.S. tries to limit technology transfers to hostile
powers, but history teaches that such transfers cannot be stopped for long
periods. They can only be slowed and made more costly, and even that
requires the cooperation of other developed nations. The acquisition and
use of transferred technologies in ballistic missile and WMD programs has
been facilitated by foreign student training in the U.S., by wide
dissemination of technical information, by the illegal acquisition of U.S.
designs and equipment and by the relaxation of U.S. export control
policies. As a result, the U.S. has been and is today a major, albeit
unintentional, contributor to the proliferation of ballistic missiles and
associated weapons of mass destruction.
3. Motives of Countries of Concern
Recent ballistic missile and nuclear tests in South Asia should not be
viewed as merely a sharp but temporary setback in the expanding reach of
non-proliferation regimes. While policymakers may try to reverse or at
least contain the trends of which these tests are a part, the missile and
WMD programs of these nations are clearly the results of fundamental
political calculations of their vital interests. Those nations willing and
able to supply dangerous technologies and systems to one another, including
Russia, China and their quasi-governmental commercial entities, may be
motivated by commercial, foreign policy or national security interests or
by a combination thereof. As noted, such countries are increasingly
cooperating with one another, perhaps in some instances because they have
reciprocal needs for what one has and the other lacks. The transfer of
complete missile systems, such as China's transfer to Saudi Arabia, will
continue to be available. Short of radical political change, there is every
reason to assume that the nations engaged in these missile and WMD
development activities will continue their programs as matters of high
4. Readier Market Access to Technology
In today's increasingly market-driven, global economy, nations so motivated
have faster, cheaper and more efficient access to modern technology.
Commercial exchanges and technology transfers have multiplied the pathways
to those technologies needed for ballistic missiles and weapons of mass
destruction. These pathways reduce development times and costs, lowering
both technical and budget obstacles to missile development and deployment.
Expanding world trade and the explosion in information technology have
accelerated the global diffusion of scientific, technical and industrial
information. The channels--both public and private, legal and
illegal--through which technology, components and individual technicians
can be moved among nations have increased exponentially.
5. Availability of Classified Information and Export-Controlled
Trends in the commercial sector of a market-driven, global economy have
been accompanied, and in many ways accelerated, by an increased
availability of classified information as a result of:
* Lax enforcement of export controls.
* Relaxation of U.S. and Western export controls.
* Growth in dual-use technologies.
* Economic incentives to sell ballistic missile components and systems.
* Extensive declassification of materials related to ballistic missiles
and weapons of mass destruction.
* Continued, intense espionage facilitated by security measures
increasingly inadequate for the new environment.
* Extensive disclosure of classified information, including information
compromising intelligence sources and methods. Damaging information
appears almost daily in the national and international media and on
E. Alternative Ballistic Missile Launch Modes
In evaluating present threats, it is misleading to use old patterns of
development as guides. The history of U.S. and Soviet missile and WMD
development has become irrelevant. Approaches that the U.S. considered and
specifically rejected on grounds of safety, reliability, accuracy and
requirements for high volume production are in many cases well-suited to
nations less concerned about safety and able to meet their needs with only
a few, less accurate, less reliable weapons. Analytical approaches the
Intelligence Community could realistically rely on in the past need to be
restudied and reevaluated in light of this newer model.
The Commission believes the U.S. needs to pay attention to the possibility
that complete, long-range ballistic missile systems could be transferred
from one nation to another, just as China transferred operational CSS-2s to
Saudi Arabia in 1988. Such missiles could be equipped with weapons of mass
One nation's use of another nation's territory also needs to be considered.
The U.S. did this during the Cold War, and the Soviet Union tried to do it
in Cuba in the early 1960s. For example, if Iran were to deploy ballistic
missiles in Libya, it could reduce the range required to threaten the U.S.
as well as Europe. Given the existing patterns of cooperation the
Commission has already seen, both testing by one country on the territory
of another and deriving data from other-country tests are also distinct
Sea launch of shorter range ballistic missiles is another possibility. This
could enable a country to pose a direct territorial threat to the U.S.
sooner than it could by waiting to develop an ICBM for launch from its own
territory. Sea launching could also permit it to target a larger area of
the U.S. than would a missile fired from its home territory. India is
working on a sea launch capability. Air launch is another possible mode of
delivering a shorter range missile to U.S. territory.
The key importance of these approaches is that each would significantly
shorten the warning time of deployment available to the United States.
F. Erosion of Warning
Precise forecasts of the growth in ballistic missile capabilities over the
next two decades--tests by year, production rates, weapons deployed by
year, weapon characteristics by system type and circular error probable
(CEP)--cannot be provided with confidence. Deception and denial efforts are
intense and often successful, and U.S. collection and analysis assets are
limited. Together they create a high risk of continued surprise.
The question is not simply whether the U.S. will have warning of an
emerging capability, but whether the nature and magnitude of a particular
threat will be perceived with sufficient clarity in time to take
Concealment, denial and deception efforts by key target countries are
intended to delay the discovery of strategically significant activities
until well after they had been carried out successfully. The fact that some
of these secret activities are discovered over time is to the credit of the
U.S. Intelligence Community. However, the fact that there are delays in
discovery of those activities provides a sharp warning that a great deal of
activity goes undetected.
Both technical and human intelligence are inherently more difficult to
collect in those countries where the U.S. has limited access, which include
most of the ballistic missile countries of concern. The U.S. is not able to
predict and anticipate with confidence the behavior and actions of emerging
ballistic missile powers and their related political decision-making.
Their ballistic missile programs often do not follow a single, known
pattern or model, and they use unexpected development patterns. These are
not models of development the U.S. follows or that intelligence analysts
expect to see. For example, Pakistan's test launch in April 1998 of its
Ghauri MRBM--its version of the North Korean No Dong--could not be
predicted on the basis of any known pattern of technical development either
for MRBMs generally or Pakistan in particular. Similarly, North Korea's
decision to deploy the No Dong after what is believed to be a single
successful test flight is another example. Based on U.S. and Russian
experience, the Intelligence Community had expected that a regular test
series would be required to provide the confidence needed before any
country would produce and deploy a ballistic missile system. Yet North
Korea deployed the No Dong.
The Commission believes that the technical means of collection now employed
will not meet emerging requirements, and considerable uncertainty persists
whether planned collection and analysis systems will do so.
In analyzing the ballistic missile threat, the Commission used an expanded
methodology. We used it as a complement to the traditional analysis in
which a country's known program status is used to establish estimates of
its current missile capabilities. We believe this expanded approach
provides insights into emerging threats that the prevailing approaches used
by the Intelligence Community may not bring to the surface.
To guide our assessment of the ballistic missile threat to the United
States, we posed three questions:
* What is known about the ballistic missile threat, including the
domestic infrastructure of a ballistic missile power; the efforts of a
power to acquire foreign technology, materials and expertise; and the
scale, pace and progress of its programs?
* What is not known about the threat in each of those three categories?
* Can a power intent on posing a ballistic missile threat to any part of
the United States, including the use of but not limited to ICBM-range
missiles, use the open market, the black market and/or espionage to
secure the needed technology and expertise and then carry out its
program in ways that will minimize the interval between the time the
U.S. becomes aware of the threat and the fielding of that capability?
In seeking answers to these questions, we familiarized ourselves with the
current state of knowledge as well as the depth of analytic capability
within the Intelligence Community related to ballistic missile and WMD
threats. The Commission used its broad access to individuals, special
compartmented intelligence and special access programs. We consulted with
experts in the broader government and private analytic and policy
communities. We reviewed the strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities of
current and planned human and technical collection efforts and
capabilities, especially in light of the increasingly sophisticated means
and methods available to target countries to hide from U.S. intelligence
collection. We reviewed with scientists, engineers and program managers
from the public and private sectors the technical issues associated with
the design, development and testing of ballistic missiles and the means and
methods available to the emerging ballistic missile powers to meet the
challenges associated with long-range ballistic missile development and
The Commission analyzed the available information in order to develop an
understanding of the threat from three perspectives:
* We examined the known size and quality of the deployed forces, the
doctrine and the command and control systems that govern the forces
and the availability of weapons of mass destruction to arm the forces.
We reviewed the infrastructure supporting the programs and the extent
of past and present foreign assistance available to those programs
from Russia, China and other countries, including the West.
* We examined the ways in which the programs of emerging ballistic
missile powers compared with one another. For example, we traced the
development histories of the related programs of North Korea, Iran,
Iraq and Pakistan and the relationships among them. This comparison
helped in identifying the similarities between programs, the extent to
which each had aided one another in overcoming critical development
hurdles and, importantly, the pace at which a determined country can
progress in its program development.
* We reviewed the resources ("inputs") available and the ways in which
they provide indicators of the prospects for successful missile
By integrating these perspectives, we were able to partially bridge a
significant number of intelligence gaps. Emphasizing inputs makes two
important contributions to the analysis. Inputs include domestic
opportunity costs, the foreign technology and expertise sought and
obtained, the urgency with which facilities are constructed both above and
below ground and the willingness to absorb cost and time penalties in order
to hide activities from detection by U.S. intelligence. Attention to inputs
across all elements of a program helps develop an understanding of the
scale and scope of a program before traditional output indicators, such as
testing and production rates, can be observed and evaluated. When combined
with observed outputs and the application of engineering judgments, the
understanding of the scale and scope of a program that this provided helped
us to measure the probable pace and magnitude of a program and its
potential products. We were then able to make what we believe to be
reasonably confident estimates of what the various programs can achieve.
Rather than measuring how far a program had progressed from a known
starting point, the Commission sought to measure how close a program might
be to demonstrating the first flight of a long-range ballistic missile.
This approach requires that analysts extrapolate a program's scope, scale,
pace and direction beyond what the hard evidence at hand unequivocally
supports. It is in sharp contrast to a narrow focus on the certain that
obscures the almost-certain. The approach helps reduce the effects of
denial and deception efforts. When strategically significant programs were
assessed by narrowly focusing on what is known, the assessments lagged the
actual state of the programs by two to eight years and in some cases
completely missed significant programs.
We chose to focus on what is left to be accomplished in the programs of
potentially threatening ballistic missile powers and alternative paths they
can follow to attain their goals. We reviewed program histories and current
activities, including foreign assistance, to determine whether a ballistic
missile program acquired the means to overcome its identified problems. We
considered the multiple pathways available for completing its development
given the combination of expertise and technology available to it and the
circumstances in which it is operating. This approach accepts as a basic
premise that a power determined to possess a long-range missile, knowing
that the U.S. is trying to track its every action but aware of U.S.
intelligence methods and sources, will do its best to deny information and
to deceive the U.S. about its actual progress.
Because of these options available to emerging ballistic missile powers,
the Commission, unanimously recognizing that missile development and
deployment now follows new models, strongly urges the use of an expanded
approach to intelligence that assesses both inputs and outputs in other
countries' ballistic missile programs. We believe this approach is needed
in order to capture both sooner and more accurately the speed and magnitude
of potential ballistic missile proliferation in the post-Cold War world and
to assess, in time, the various threats this proliferation poses to the
The Commission's key judgments are derived from applying this methodology
and examining the evidence in light of the individual and collective
experience of the nine Commissioners.
Ballistic missiles armed with WMD payloads pose a strategic threat to the
United States. This is not a distant threat. Characterizing foreign
assistance as a wild card is both incorrect and misleading. Foreign
assistance is pervasive, enabling and often the preferred path to ballistic
missile and WMD capability.
A new strategic environment now gives emerging ballistic missile powers the
capacity, through a combination of domestic development and foreign
assistance, to acquire the means to strike the U.S. within about five years
of a decision to acquire such a capability (10 years in the case of Iraq).
During several of those years, the U.S. might not be aware that such a
decision had been made. Available alternative means of delivery can shorten
the warning time of deployment nearly to zero.
The threat is exacerbated by the ability of both existing and emerging
ballistic missile powers to hide their activities from the U.S. and to
deceive the U.S. about the pace, scope and direction of their development
and proliferation programs. Therefore, we unanimously recommend that U.S.
analyses, practices and policies that depend on expectations of extended
warning of deployment be reviewed and, as appropriate, revised to reflect
the reality of an environment in which there may be little or no warning.
1. An unauthorized launch is one that has not received the required
authorizations from senior political leaders and that might be conducted by
elements within the General Staff or subordinate commanders. An inadvertent
launch is one resulting from a mistaken assessment of sensor data,
including from ballistic missile early warning systems, or a
misinterpretation of the strategic situation or some combination of the
two, especially in times of crisis generated either by domestic or
2. An ICBM has a range greater than 5,500 km.
3. An MRBM has a range of 1,000 to 3,000 km.
4. An SRBM has a range of less than 1,000 km.
5. An IRBM has a range of 3,000 to 5,500 km.
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