The Skybolt Missile Cancellation: An Analysis of Foreign Policy Decision Making in the Kennedy Executive

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

In December 1962 the Kennedy administration canceled the Skybolt missile program. Skybolt was an air launched ballistic missile being developed by the United States for use by both the US Air Force and the British Royal Air Force. Its abrupt cancellation caused a short "crisis" in Anglo-American relations. The Tory government of Harold Macmillan accused the Kennedy administration of canceling Skybolt to force an end to their independent nuclear deterrent. The American government countered that the decision was based solely on technical and financial grounds.

This thesis expands on the questions addressed my previous authors of why Skybolt was canceled and why its cancellation became a "crisis." The present author maintains that the cancellation resulted primarily because of changing military policy instituted by the Kennedy administration and because of heightened disarmament efforts. It is also argued that the mechanics of decision making within the Kennedy executive contributed to the crisis atmosphere.