The Six Billion Dollar Pyramid


War is Boring remembers a Cold War story I hadn’t read about since probably high school:

Construction of the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex began in 1970. It was the Safeguard prototype—the first of many such installations. But fear of a new nuclear arms race killed the program before assembly of the first facility was complete.

In 1972, U.S. president Richard Nixon and Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.

The ABM treaty limited the number of facilities such as the Stanley R. Mickelsen to two per country. Congress—citing mounting costs—killed a second defense array already under construction in Montana.

Five years after the initial groundbreaking, the North Dakota complex came to life. The facility operated for a little under 24 hours before Congress pulled the funding and ended the program.


The article notes how much money the Pentagon wasted on the usual cost overruns. I’m no defender of Pentagon waste — I’ve called our procurement system “broken” on far more than one occasion — but the real waste here might have been political, not military.

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