NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 1998 (Senate - June 19, 1997)

[EXCERPT]

[Page: S5956]

Mr. INHOFE...

The last thing I would say that is impaired by this, this issue we have talked about many times, is the fact we need to finish our national missile defense system that we started in 1983. In 1983--of course, that was the Reagan administration. There were a lot of people at that time who were very, very--they were very concerned over what was going to happen. They had the foresight to say we are going to have to have a system to defend America against a missile that would come in, an ICBM, by the year 2000. So we set up a system whereby we would have something deployable by 1999.

Up until 1992, when the Clinton administration went in, we were right on schedule. We had an investment. We have a $50 billion investment in the Aegis fleet of 22 ships right now that have rocket-launching capabilities. You can stand on the floor and talk about the four different types of potential systems that we now have an investment in that would offer us a defense against a missile attack from overseas, but perhaps the Aegis system is the best one because it is a matter of protecting an investment, a $50 billion investment. It would only cost $5 billion more to be able to take the launching capability and go out of the atmosphere.

Why is that important? Because if a missile is launched from China or from North Korea or from Russia--and certainly don't assume something couldn't come from Russia. It could be an accidental launch. We know that. We went through that. When we had the hearings not too long ago, we talked about how long it took to retarget over there and what the risk was of an accidental launch or an unintentional launch from Russia. But if that happened, if we have this system in place where we can go up beyond the atmosphere, we would have about 30 minutes to shoot down a missile that is coming in our direction. We know it works. There is not anyone in America who did not watch on CNN what was going on in the Persian Gulf war. We know that rockets can knock down missiles . So it is a matter of getting it out of the atmosphere.

If you wait until it comes into the atmosphere, you have about 2 minutes. So the choice there is 30 minutes or 2 minutes. When you have a system that is 90 percent paid for and it takes about $5 billion more and we are spending $6 or $8 billion over in Bosnia, we have to get our priorities straight. Unfortunately, we have a very biased media in this country that does not allow a lot of this stuff to get out.

We can say it on the floor of the U.S. Senate and we know that we have the facts. But by the time it gets reported, it shifts through the beltway media and people do not realize that risk is out there.

So I will just say, Mr. President, since we are dealing with the DOD authorization bill today, I would like to serve warning we are going to have a resolution, well in advance, so our allies will know that when June 30, 1998, comes, we are going to be out of Bosnia. I think it is better to go ahead and serve notice early rather than to wait to the last minute.