Opposition to National Missile Defense and the Militarization of Space

  • Date: Jan 01 2001
  • Policy Number: 200119

Key Words: Military

The American Public Health Association,

Recalling that the Governing Council adopted a policy statement in 1987 calling for an end to the development and deployment of the Strategic Defense Initiative;1 and,

Noting that the United States has continued to conduct research on the development of a National Missile Defense (NMD) system, at a cost of approximately $100 billion to date, with additional estimated costs of $60 billion by 2015, expenditures that could otherwise be better used to provide for basic needs of the population;2 and,

Noting that the U.S. program to develop NMD has been marked by numerous failed tests, and by well-documented attempts by the U.S. military to promote the program by denying the results of such tests;3 and,

Recognizing the current U.S. plans for developing NMD would require a significant modification or abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972, which would likely spur a renewed nuclear arms race;4 and,

Observing that the U.S. has begun to explicitly prepare for the use of space as a battlefield, as indicated by the “Long Range Plan” of the U.S. Space Command, recent statements of the Secretary of Defense, and the recent staging in Colorado of the first U.S. war games based on the possibility of war in space;5 and,

Noting that in 1999, 140 nations of the United Nations General Assembly voted to reaffirm the Outer Space Treaty, which preserves use of outer space for peaceful purposes, by adopting a resolution entitled “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space,” with only the United States and Israel abstaining;6 therefore

  1. Calls upon the United States to end its research, testing and development of NMD, and to reaffirm its support for the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of arms control necessary for further progress towards the abolition of nuclear weapons; and,
  2. Calls upon the United States to announce its support of the Outer Space Treaty and to demonstrate unequivocally its adherence to the Treaty by immediately ceasing all planning for space-based military operations; and,
  3. Calls upon the United States to reduce its nuclear stockpiles, either unilaterally or multilaterally, in order to more effectively reduce the threat of nuclear war.


  1. American Public Health Association. Resolution 8715: End to Nuclear Weapons Testing and the Strategic Defense Initiative. APHA Public Policy Statements 1948-present, Cumulative. Washington, D.C.: American Public Health Association.
  2. Missile Defense May Have Price of $60 billion. New York Times, April 26, 2000; Richter P. Major Flaws Feared in Missile System. Defense Shield May Not Meet Time, Cost Goals. San Francisco Chronicle, March 4, 2001.
  3. Broad WJ. Antimissile Testing Is Rigged to Hide a Flaw, Critics Say. New York Times, June 9, 2000; Richter B. It Doesn’t Take Rocket Science. Washington Post, July 23, 2000, B02; Postol TA, Lewis GN. We Can’t Tell the Missile From the Mylar. New York Times, July 7, 2000.
  4. Myers SL. U.S. Missile Plan Could Reportedly Provoke China. New York Times, August 10, 2000; China, U.S. Blame Each Other. New York Times, February 15, 2001; Tyler PE. Russia Says U.S. Antimissile Plan Means an Arms Race. New York Times, February 6, 2001; Russia Attacks Missile Defense Plan. New York Times, February 16, 2001; Diehl J. Star Wars Lives—Once the ABM Deal is Killed. Washington Post, April 16, 2001, A17.
  5. Risen J. U.S. Should Improve Defense of Satellites, Panel Advises, New York Times, January 12, 2001; Ricks TE. Space Is Playing Field For Newest War Game. Washington Post, January 29, 2001, A01; Wolf J. Air Force Gearing Up for Space Operations. Reuters, February 9, 2001; U.S. Space Command. Long Range Plan: Implementing USSPACECOM Vision for 2020; Dao J. Rumsfeld Seeks Overhaul of Pentagon Space Effort. New York Times, May 8, 2001.
  6. Sidel VW, Levy BS. Epilogue. In Levy BS, Sidel VW, eds. War and Public Health. Updated Edition. Washington, D.C.: American Public Health Association, 2000, p. 405.

Public Health Impact Statement

A cessation of programs to develop missile defenses would reduce the chances of a renewed nuclear arms race and avoid the militarization of space. As such, the dangers of worldwide nuclear annihilation would be lessened. Resources shifted from such massive military expenditures into programs that provide for redressing international environmental and health problems, including providing adequate healthcare, housing and nutrition for the people of the world would have profound global public health effects.

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