SMDC History: GPALS becomes Missile Defense

By Sharon Watkins Lang (SMDC/ARSTRAT Command Historian)May 21, 2018

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announced May 13, 1993, the end of the "Star Wars" era.

The collapse of the Soviet Union sealed the fate for Star Wars as the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization became the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (not to be confused with the Army's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which existed from 1974--1985). With a diminished threat posed by intercontinental ballistic missiles, the first priority for the new organization would be developing and fielding theater missile defense weapon systems.

Eleven days later, the effect of this change was seen within the Army structure as the Program Executive Office for Global Protection Against Limited Strikes officially became the PEO Missile Defense on May 24.

In response to a request from Maj. Gen. William Chen, PEO GPALS, the organization was officially redesignated in a memorandum signed by Mr. George E. Dausman, Army Acquisition Executive. Dausman noted that this change was effective immediately but it "[would] not affect your mission or resources."

As defined by Aspin, the missions for the BMDO were theater ballistic missile defense, national missile defense and "follow on technologies that offer promise in both tactical and strategic defense." Following the Gulf War, the threat posed by shorter range missiles such as the modified Scuds fired by the Iraqis was given priority.

Established in the summer of 1992, the PEO components were the Army Theater Missile Program Office and the Army National Missile Defense Program Office. Each of these was then composed of a variety of project and or products offices. The ATMD program incorporated Patriot, the Extended Range Interceptor, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense, Arrow, and the Joint Tactical Ground Stations.

The ANMD meanwhile was composed of the ground-based interceptor, the ground-based radar, regional operations center/communications and the Site Development Office.

Chen explained in a subsequent interview with the Redstone Rocket that "in essence the mission for the PEO has not been changed ... Our elements were ground-based theater and national missile defense elements and that has not changed. The future of BMDO will really be determined by the out year funding guidance and the effect that the overall funding guidance will have consistent with the priorities of; one, theater missile defense; two, the national missile defense; and three, follow-on technologies."

Chen further explained the rationale for this name selection. During his visit to Huntsville, Chen observed "in our case, where the Army PEO executes the missile defense programs, I felt it was important to use the broader term of missile defense as the PEO designation as opposed to ballistic missile defense to encompass the missions of missile defense against cruise missiles which are considered non-ballistic."

The Patriot and the Corps SAM systems, for example "embody the capabilities against theater missiles that are ballistic as well as against the air-breathing threat to include cruise missiles." Chen further added that the Army PEO, as designed, is 100 percent devoted to missile defense and execution of BMD programs."

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