SMDC History: Safeguard to BMD

By Sharon Watkins Lang, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Command HistorianMarch 27, 2015

SMDC History: Safeguard to BMD
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

By 1973, the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty, which was ratified May 1972, had reduced the Safeguard deployment from two sites to one, and an amended program decision memorandum issued by the secretary of defense in August 1973 had placed additional funding and operational constraints on the Safeguard and site defense programs.

So, even as personnel assigned to operate the Safeguard Ballistic Missile Defense, or BMD, system began to report for duty in North Dakota, Deputy Secretary of Defense William P. Clements Jr., directed Secretary of the Army Howard H. Callaway to reorganize and restructure the Army's Ballistic Missile Defense program.

In a memorandum dated March 26, 1974, Clements set forth the guidelines for this reorganization and the creation of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, or BMDO.

Under the existing BMD structure the program was divided into "three coordinated parts." At the forefront was the deployment of the Safeguard system under the Safeguard Systems Command. In conjunction with this activity, the command was also addressing the next generation of missile defense, the site defense prototype.

The final component of the BMD program was advanced technology.

Under the purview of the Advanced Ballistic Missile Defense Agency, or ABMDA, the program was described as "a vigorous research effort embracing all components and functions technology of BMD, [laying] the base for future systems efforts, [guarding] against technological surprise, [providing] the basis for upgrading our own BMD systems, and [assisting] in design and evaluation of US strategic offensive systems."

The new structure was designed to address BMD management requirements given the limitations of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and funding restrictions. Other objectives were to reduce management overhead, eliminate the separation of responsibility for the Kwajalein Missile Range, while "[maintaining] a dynamic technological program and providing an environment "conducive to attracting and keeping competent personnel."

At the same time, ABMDA was to be consolidated in Huntsville, Ala., and restructured along technological lines.

Finally, it was hoped that the creation of a BMD program manager would enable the BMD program to speak with one voice.

The resulting organization would not be finalized until May 1974 with the release of a new general order and charter. The organization itself however was defined in this March memorandum.

At the head of the BMD organization was the BMD program manager who reported to the chief of staff of the Army. This reporting chain eliminated the need for the deputy assistant secretary of the Army (Research and Development) for BMD.

At the same time, the ABMDA was discontinued, replaced by a newly created Ballistic Missile Defense Advanced Technology Center, or BMDATC, located in Huntsville. The Safeguard System Command, or SAFSCOM, also located in Huntsville, became the BMD Systems Command, or BMDSCOM.

Both organizations were geared to place greater emphasis upon research and development efforts to maintain technological superiority in the near and far term. The Safeguard System Evaluation Agency meanwhile transferred to the Training and Doctrine Command and a newly created TRADOC Systems Analysis Activity, with a new mission of independent evaluations or the Army.

Over and above the reductions tied to congressional funding reductions, the immediate effect of this reorganization was the elimination of the deputy assistant secretary position and the reduction of 36 spaced in the Washington, D.C. area.

Another 200 personnel transferred to TRADOC with the evaluation agency. The Safeguard reductions would take a little longer. Phased reductions associated with the Safeguard deployment were to begin before the beginning of the next fiscal year -- by July 1, 1974.

SAFSCOM commander, Brig. Gen. Bates Burnell specifically stated "reductions in personnel will be phased to permit orderly transition and will take maximum advantage of normal attrition and civilian employment placement policies."

Until this year, this configuration was the longest lasting command structure in the command's history. The BMDO organization would remain active until the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan announced a new strategy for missile defense - the Strategic Defense Initiative. BMDO became the U.S. Army Strategic Defense Command in 1985, while the BMDATC and BMDSCOM formally ceased to exist in January 1986, after 11 years in operation.

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