The late U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop (R–WY), who was the first Chung Ju-Yung Fellow for Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, will be missed by many. His tireless contributions to this country in foreign and defense affairs are significant and will long be remembered. Senator Wallop supported a strong national defense and the 1976 “Team B Strategic Objectives Panel,” which laid the intellectual foundation for the Reagan arms buildup. In the 1970s, Senator Wallop was at the forefront of the effort to enact legislation to develop defensive systems to protect the U.S. homeland and its people by developing space-based ballistic missile defenses—acknowledged by experts to be the most effective and cost-efficient deployment option.
Senator Wallop’s vigilance and persistence as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (as well as other committees) and his mastery of the missile defense subject compelled the Carter Administration to publicly acknowledge that a space-based laser system would have been ready for a prototype demonstration as early as 1986 and deployment by the late 1980s or early 1990s. Significantly, Senator Wallop spearheaded a large-scale educational campaign for Senators and Senate staff members, resulting in substantial increases for the space-based laser research and development program.
In 1987, during a lecture at The Heritage Foundation, Senator Wallop argued that the technology for developing space-based systems has long existed. He had the idea to exempt missile defenses from Pentagon regulations for at least 10 years to prevent them from slowing progress toward deploying a U.S. missile defense system.
Almost 30 years after the Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Treaty entered into force and prohibited the fielding of effective U.S. missile defense systems, the United States finally managed to withdraw from the treaty in 2002 and advance its missile defense capabilities. Senator Wallop was a longtime proponent of the withdrawal and argued that it was simply “common sense” to move beyond it in order to fulfill the purposes of the U.S. Constitution to “provide for the common defense.”
In the relatively short period of time since 2001, the United States has fielded 30 Ground-Based Interceptors protecting the U.S. homeland from long-range ballistic missiles. In April 2011, the Navy tested its Aegis ballistic missile defense system against a target that simulated an intermediate-range missile, indicating that there is an alternative path to defend against strategic missile attack. The Space Tracking and Surveillance System has also demonstrated the ability to track ballistic missiles in flight from launch to impact, or from “birth to death,” allowing U.S. defensive interceptors to perform better.
Unfortunately, the United States has not yet developed and advanced the space-based component of its ballistic missile defense, leaving Senator Wallop’s largest dream unfulfilled and the United States substantially vulnerable to a large-scale attack.
Co-authored by Michaela Bendikova and Owen Graham.