16 Jul 1980: ANSER and the Missile Age
In the fall of 1979, President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States would develop and deploy the M-X (“missile experimental”), a new, more technologically advanced intercontinental ballistic missile system that would replace the Minuteman missile system. The Air Force concurrently announced its intention to investigate the practicability of using renewable energy (solar, wind, and geothermal) resources to supply power to the facilities that would house and maintain the M-X system. To assist in that investigation, the Air Force tapped Analytic Services Inc.
ANSER’s initial involvement was in a joint Department of Defense and Department of Energy project to accelerate the development of renewable energy resources (RES) for M-X and commercial applications. The latter application, DOD and DOE believed, would advance because of the “excellent renewable energy resources of proposed deployment areas in Nevada and Utah and the large potential market represented by the M-X facilities.”
Less than two months after President Carter’s announcement, ANSER organized an M-X/RES Industrial Conference to discuss the project’s objectives and activities with the world. The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and the Under Secretary of Energy, along with the M-X/RES Project Office, briefed the press and more than 250 representatives of industry.
ANSER went on to assist the project office with such activities as defining the design and system integration work for the contractors, and comparing the cost of using RES versus conventional power systems. “The potential for cost-effectiveness using RES shown in our results,” ANSER’s Board of Trustees noted in 1980, “was a key influence in sustaining adequate funding for the project.” The RES study was not a long-term study, but the M-X missile system project itself was, soon taking on a new name—the Peacekeeper missile—and eventually going on to production, testing, and deployment.
ANSER went right along with it, analyzing key issues and concepts as the Air Force directed—the results of which were often briefed at the highest levels of the U.S. government. How (e.g., silos?) and where (Nevada?) to base the missiles were two such issues, both controversial and complex. Forty different basing options had been considered by the time President Carter made his announcement in 1979.
For the next decade, M-X/Peacekeeper studies and analyses would remain significant parts of the work that ANSER showcased in its annual report each year. The earlier of those years, in particular, were tense with high-level government and military attention. M-X basing was one such study (1981), looking at options such as basing half the system in Texas and half in New Mexico (versus Nevada and Utah). Another was assisting the Air Force with producing an ICBM Modernization Plan (1982). Further analyses of basing options that same year led to defining the Closely Spaced Basing concept—a concept that was briefed all the way up to President Ronald Reagan. In late 1982, he announced it as the final solution to the basing problem (a solution Congress would reject in favor of examining more basing alternatives, which ANSER also studied).
The next year, in 1983, President Reagan would make a different kind of announcement, proposing a new “long-term research and development program to begin…eliminating the threat posed by [Soviet] strategic nuclear missiles.” The program would be big. It would involve space.
And it would also involve ANSER.