The MX Weapon System

Issues and Challenges Gao ID: MASAD-81-1 February 17, 1981

Progress has been made during the first year of full-scale development of the MX weapon system, particularly in missile development. However, the Department of Defense (DOD) is faced with a tremendous management challenge in achieving cost, schedule, and performance goals.

Although DOD has approved new requirements estimated to cost $700 million, there has been no change in the life-cycle cost estimate. MX is designed to provide a certain number of surviving reentry vehicles assuming a threat constrained by the unratified Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. Without a treaty, the Soviets could build enough weapons to neutralize MX. MX could then be expanded to counter that threat, at considerable cost, by adding missiles, shelters, and/or a ballistic missile defense. Congress should be aware that it is not possible at this time to predict the ultimate size of the deployment area, the number of missiles and shelters, or the cost of MX. The primary method of Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty verification should prevent undetected deployment of additional missiles. Some of the extra verification features in the MX design, especially the view ports, appear unnecessary. The Air Force assessed existing military bases and concluded that neither land nor facilities were available for an MX operating base. However, excess land at Nellis Air Force Base was not included in the assessment. In addition, consideration was not given to placing part of the facilities on existing bases. The Air Force is considering options that would enhance its ability to take actions that may be necessary to protect location uncertainty. Some of these options could be construed as restrictions on public access or activities, but no final decisions have been made.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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