Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States

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Also known as the Rumsfeld Commission, the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States was a Congressionally-chartered 1998 study to assess emerging missile threats, especially by nation-states developing a new capability. It did not address cruise missile threats or threats from non-national actors. [1]

It considered the scenarios of ballistic missiles:

  • Deployed on the territory of a potentially hostile state.
  • Launched from a surface vessel or submarine operating off the coasts of the United States or from an aircraft.
  • Deployed by a potentially hostile nation on the territory of a third party to reduce the range required of its ballistic missiles to strike the United States.

The Commission agreed its approach differed from that of the United States intelligence community in three main assumptions, which may have led to a greater sense of urgency:

  • 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.