Tuesday, July 27, 2004


The U.S. Missile Defense Agency fixed its Web site today and responded to the calls I made yesterday for funding details. Yes, just in time, since I needed the information for yesterday’s post.

It turns out that funding for National Missile Defense and its predecessors is at about $90 billion over 21 years, including the coming fiscal year. But what’s interesting here is the upswing in funding you see in the current administration.

Looking at the historical funding document the agency provides, I note that even President Reagan, who came up with the idea for Star Wars, never asked for more than $5.2 billion for it in a year -- and it was only funded for $3.6 billion that year.

The first President Bush essentially maintained Reagan’s spending levels, and President Clinton’s ambivalence about the project is palpable in his budget requests. The project almost died during his presidency.

When the current President Bush takes office, though, the excitement is obvious. His first request for missile defense spending almost doubles Clinton’s final request, and spending levels since have been at their highest, even adjusting for inflation from the Reagan era. Next year, with actual launch sites being installed, will be the highest so far; Bush asked for $9.2 billion and got $9.1 billion.

This is remarkable for a program that doesn’t work and is of questionable value even if it does work.

But if research goes on, eventually we should be able to play a large-scale version of “Missile Command,” even though, after all, the only winning move is not to play.

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