Since the 1980s, the United States has invested considerable resources to develop and field ballistic missile defenses to protect the U.S. homeland from attack by long-range ballistic missiles. In recent years, concerns have arisen that another type of weapon—land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs)— may also pose a threat to the U.S. homeland. Unfortunately, the systems that the U.S. military has deployed to protect the United States from ballistic missile warheads that fly high above the atmosphere are ill-suited to counter LACMs, which fly close to Earth’s surface.
This Congressional Budget Office report examines the potential for LACM attacks against the United States and the types of systems that might be fielded to provide a cruise missile defense with nationwide coverage. Such coverage would be analogous to that provided by national ballistic missile defenses.