Statement on Deployment of the MX Missile

November 22, 1982

For nearly 2 years my administration has examined the matter of the MX missile, the development of which has been supported by my three immediate predecessors, Presidents Carter, Ford, and Nixon. We all have strongly agreed that strengthening our land-based missile system is absolutely essential to maintain America's deterrent capability to deter war and to protect our nation.

I have sought the counsel of my predecessors, the opinion of Members of Congress, and the advice of the best technical and scientific minds in the field. My administration, as well as the ones before it, has examined a wide variety of options, including smaller or bigger missiles, the development of one missile for common use on land or at sea, and the possibility of greater mobility. And, like the preceding administrations, we have concluded that MX is the right missile and that now is the time.

Deciding how to deploy the missile has not been that easy. A variety of basing modes has been studied by previous administrations and by ours. The concept of deceptive basing, as employed in previous planning, was a fundamentally sound one for assuring the stability of land-based ICBM forces in times of crisis. It complied with our strategic arms control objectives. Other sensible growth options were studied as well. As these plans progressed through the two previous administrations, however, they grew enormously in cost. Not only was the financial cost high -- $40 - $50 billion -- but the cost of our western citizens in terms of water, land, social disruption, and environmental damage seemed unreasonable.

For these reasons, we considered other approaches while proceeding with the development of the MX missile itself. The missile work is now nearly complete. The first test flight is scheduled for early next year. While test flights are just that -- tests -- I have no doubts about the technical success, in fact excellence, of this missile.

In reexamining how to base the missiles, we concluded that by pulling the launch sites much closer together and making them a great deal harder, we could make significant savings. We would need fewer silos, much less land, and in fact fewer missiles. We would achieve a system that could survive against the current and projected Soviet rocket inventory. Deployment of such a system would require the Soviets to make costly new technical developments if they wish to even contemplate a surprise attack. Most of the Soviet countermeasures proposed are really no more than technical dreams on which no Soviet planner or politician would bet the fate of his country. Thus, Closely Spaced Basing is a reasonable way to deter attack -- which is our objective.

Now let me outline our overall plan for our ICBM force.

First, we recognize that the best survivability, and thus the best deterrence, lies in the modernization of all three legs of the Triad: submarines, bombers, and land-based ballistic missiles. Each gains security as all are rendered less susceptible to technological or operational surprise.

Second, we are closing down our force of huge Titan missiles at the rate of one missile every month or two. Their immense warheads and antiquated fuels have no place in our current inventory.

Third, we will maintain an appropriate Minuteman force, but many of these could be removed if we reach agreement with the Soviets on strategic arms reductions.

And fourth, we plan to produce the MX missile, now named ``Peacekeeper,'' and deploy it in superhard silos at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, near Cheyenne, Wyoming.

That seems to be the most cost-effective location, but I appreciate the enthusiastic offers by the citizens of Nevada to base the missile in their State.

We will emplace 100 of these missiles (versus the 200 in some of the earlier plans) in launch canisters which can be moved, if necessary, between closely spaced superhard silos. We plan to build only 100 such silos, but we will design the system so that we can add more silos later, again within the confines of a small land area, if the Soviets will not agree to strategic arms reductions, or if they persist in the development and production of more powerful and deadly weapons. We would prefer that the Soviets dismantle SS - 18's, rather than we build more holes. But we can accommodate either and maintain stability.

As far as an active defense is concerned, we do not wish to embark on any course of action that could endanger the current ABM treaty so long as it is observed by the Soviet Union. Likewise, we do not wish to build even the minimal ABM system allowed us by the treaty, even though the Soviets have done so.

We plan to continue research on ballistic missile defense technology -- the kind of smart, highly accurate, hopefully nonnuclear, weapons that utilize the microelectronic and other advanced technologies in which we excel. The objective of this program is stability for our ICBM forces in the nineties, a hedge against Soviet breakout of the ABM treaty, and the technical competence to evaluate Soviet ABM developments. We currently have no plan to deploy any ballistic missile defense system.

The entire missile and basing program will cost about $26 billion in 1982 dollars, commencing with this fiscal year. That's a reduction by half, both in cost and in numbers of missiles deployed, from the other plans on the drawingboards when I entered office. The ongoing ballistic missile defense research and development will cost about $2.5 billion. Both of these programs are already reflected in the FY 83 budget projections, but the specific decisions announced today allow us to proceed with the reductions from my February budget request for this year of a billion dollars, which we have so carefully worked out with the Congress.

Continuity of effort in national security affairs is essential. Turbulence is wasteful beyond words. These programs to increase the stability and security of our strategic nuclear forces are urgently needed. The planning by my predecessors made them possible, but it is for my successor that I make these decisions. With every effort, the Peacekeeper missile still will not be fully deployed until the late 1980's, when yet another President shoulders these burdens.

I urge the Congress, and all Americans, to support this program, developed under several Presidents: those in the past who conceived and urged the deployment of MX and the current President, who has made these difficult decisions. It is only by such steadfastness of purpose that we can maintain the peace which every nation needs to work out the hopes and dreams of its own people.