The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983, to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD). The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was set up in 1984 within the United States Department of Defense to oversee the Strategic Defense Initiative.
The ambitious initiative was widely criticized as being unrealistic, even unscientific as well as for threatening to destabilize MAD and re-ignite "an offensive arms race". In light of Reagan's vocal criticism of the MAD doctrine (Mutually Assured Destruction) the SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) was an important part of his defense policy intended to offset MAD bias. It was soon derided, largely in the mainstream media, as "Star Wars," after the popular 1977 film by George Lucas. In 1987, the American Physical Society concluded that a global shield such as "Star Wars" was not only impossible with existing technology, but that ten more years of research was needed to learn whether it might ever be feasible.
Under the administration of President Bill Clinton in 1993, its name was changed to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and its emphasis was shifted from national missile defense to theater missile defense; and its scope from global to more regional coverage. It was never truly developed or deployed, though certain aspects of SDI research and technologies paved the way for some anti-ballistic missile systems of today. BMDO was renamed to the Missile Defense Agency in 2002. This article covers defense efforts under the SDIO.
Under the SDIO's Innovative Sciences and Technology Office, headed by physicist and engineer Dr. James Ionson, the investment was predominantly made in basic research at national laboratories, universities, and in industry, and these programs have continued to be key sources of funding for top research scientists in the fields of high-energy physics, supercomputing/computation, advanced materials, and many other critical science and engineering disciplines: funding which indirectly supports other research work by top scientists, and which would be politically impossible to fund outside of the defense budget environment.
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