Looking Back: The National Missile Defense Act of 1999

by Greg Thielmann

The National Missile Defense Act of 1999 was described by its chief sponsor, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), as "the necessary first step to protecting the United States from long-range ballistic missile attack." Indeed, the act constituted an important milestone on the road to U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002, a step that the sponsors of the act advocated. Although the act itself neither authorized any programs nor appropriated any funds, it was misrepresented then and has been misrepresented since as proof of strong congressional support for the urgent and unqualified pursuit of strategic missile defenses.

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