- Polling Issues
Ballistic missile defense

China has about 350 nuclear warheads and has recently added 4 ballistic missile submarines to its fleet. It has at least 250 mobile land-based missiles capable of striking any U.S. city, and has also developed Multiple Independently-targeted Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) technology – with a single missile carrying several warheads. And for more than 50 years, China has been building a network of reinforced military bunkers and 3,000 miles of underground tunnels in which to hide and protect its strategic nuclear force. China is apparently pursuing a strategy of détente in which its missile force could survive a first strike attack and still be able to retaliate with a lethal second-strike. Some say we need to build a defense against China’s ICBM threat. However, the Chinese and Russians object to a U.S. ballistic missile defense system. These concerns have intensified since we withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002. They worry that such a system could negate their second-strike capability and leave them vulnerable to a first strike attack. This could force them into adopting a strike-first strategy, as well as lead to a new arms race.

Since the 1990s, we have been developing the land-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Systems to provide missile defense against short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. But these systems have limited scope and are designed to counter a relatively small attack from an unsophisticated adversary like North Korea. These systems are incapable of protecting us from a large-scale ICBM/MIRV attack launched by China or Russia. Missile defense opponents say we are far from deploying an ICBM shield - the requirements of which include the ability to discern missiles from decoys and destroying multiple targets in space.

But supporters believe building such a system will greatly increase our national security. They claim we need be able to counter new threats like hypersonic technology by placing greater emphasis on the importance of space sensors, lasers and new technologies to intercept missiles during their boost phase when they are traveling at their slowest speed.

Critics, including many scientists, say we do not have the technology to reliably “hit a bullet with a bullet.” They say building such a system will waste hundreds of billions of dollars, start an arms race, and increase the likelihood of a nuclear first strike against us. They also warn of the consequences of depending on a missile defense system that may not work.

In 2020, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency confirmed that, for the first time, a Standard Missile interceptor successfully destroyed an ICBM target in a test. However, the target missile likely did not incorporate sophisticated, or even rudimentary, countermeasures or other missile defense defeat measures, including multiple warheads.

Proposed Legislation: Reintroduction of S.1690 - Modernizing America's Missile Defense Act of 2019
Prospective Sponsor: Sen. Dan Sullivan (AK)

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Poll Opening Date
March 13, 2023
Poll Closing Date
March 19, 2023

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