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Abstract: This case describes the situation facing President Reagan in the fall of 1982 and early 1983 as he sought congressional support for the MX missile. Two proposals for MX basing had already failed to secure congressional authorization. The case sketches the strategic debate, its history in Congress, and the creation of the President's Commission on Strategic Forces (known as the Scowcroft Commission); it then describes the work of the commission and its negotiations, on behalf of the administration, with the House of Representatives, noting particularly the key role played by Rep. Les Aspin. These discussions concluded with a crucial vote by the House in May 1983 which released funds for the MX. A sequel briefly traces the fate of both the MX and Aspin's career in Congress following that vote.
Learning Objective: The case has several teaching objectives. First, it can be taught as a case on policy development. In this context, it is an example of an ad hoc process (such as commissions, special task forces, etc.) that can be employed when existing systems break down or produce unsatisfactory results. It can also be taught as a case on executive-legislative management, focusing on the question of how one shapes a winning coalition on Capitol Hill. Here one can examine critically the role of Aspin and others in transforming the MX issue in a way that enabled some of their colleagues to reverse earlier anti-MX votes