DEFENDING AMERICA ACT OF 1997 (Senate - January 23, 1997)

[Page: S685]

Mr. ABRAHAM. Mr. President, I rise today to join the distinguished majority leader, and my colleagues, in cosponsoring Senate bill S. 7, the Defending America Act of 1997. This legislation builds on the significant, but still insufficient, progress we accomplished in the 104th Congress. During the last session of Congress, we were able to secure the funding necessary for the eventual deployment of a missile defense system capable of protecting the United States. But we were not able to explicitly direct that we deploy the missile defense system as soon as possible. This leaves us with no assurance that the funding we have secured will be used, efficiently and expeditiously, for its intended purpose.

Therefore, Mr. President, the majority leader, in close cooperation with Congress' national defense leadership, has crafted a proposal that would secure our Nation's missile defense through prudent development of policies and force structures. To begin with, we would produce the system necessary to protect the United States from limited, unauthorized, or accidental ballistic missile attacks. We then would augment that capability to defend our Nation against larger and more sophisticated ballistic missile threats. I am especially heartened that the most promising antiballistic missile technologies, including sea-based systems such as Navy Upper Tier, are fast approaching the point at which we will be able to make them operational.

We need this technology, in my view, because the post-cold-war world remains a dangerous place. Ballistic missile proliferation to rogue regimes continues apace. The security of nuclear armed ballistic missiles in the former Soviet Union has declined sharply. Given these facts, old strategies and treaties can no longer meet our national security needs. We must develop and deploy a ballistic missile defense system capable of protecting our cities and citizens from disastrous attack.

I mentioned old treaties, Mr. President. I would like in particular to discuss the Anti-Ballistic-Missile Treaty and its relationship to missile defense . Congress has repeatedly stated that the ABM Treaty does not, in any way, hinder the development of theater ballistic missile defenses . It has also called for a renegotiation of the ABM Treaty so as to allow the development of more robust national missile defense systems.

Mr. President, the times have changed since the ratification of the ABM Treaty. Our primary threats no longer come from a general nuclear attack by thousands of Soviet weapons--an attack that would probably overwhelm a ballistic missile defense system. Today our immediate threats come from rogue, unintentional, or unauthorized attacks of limited size and duration. I believe we are quickly approaching the point of our last, best hope in properly modifying the ABM Treaty, and protecting America from ballistic missile attack.

The majority leader has displayed the foresight and perceptiveness critical for developing effective national security strategies. There can be no doubt that a fully operational and technologically capable ballistic missile defense system is crucial to that strategy. Nor can there be any doubt that antiquated treaties which fail to adapt to vastly different national security threats must be either changed or discarded.

The majority leader's bill constitutes a reasonable and moderate attempt to bridge the philosophical gap that exists between Congress and the administration. We should not let this opportunity be lost.