NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 1998 (Senate - July 10, 1997)

[Page: S7186]

AMENDMENT NO. 799

Mr. LOTT. If I could be recognized to speak on this amendment.

Does the Senator from New Mexico wish to modify his amendment? I would like to make sure I am speaking on the amendment that is before the body before I speak on this amendment.

Mr. BINGAMAN. Mr. President, yes, I do intend to modify the amendment, so that it strikes $118 million that was added by the committee for the space-based laser , and I will delete the portion of the earlier amendment that I offered which allocated those funds to the Air Force and the Navy flying hours.

Mr. LOTT. If I could ask the Senator to respond to this question: Would that knock out the entire funding for the space-based laser ?

Mr. BINGAMAN. Mr. President, that does not. It leaves the funding at the level the administration requested, which is $29 million, but it would delete the initial $118 million that was added by the committee.

Mr. LOTT. So in the bill now there is about $145 million?

Mr. BINGAMAN. Mr. President, $148 million in the bill at the present time, and this gets it back to the administration requested level of $49.

Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, just so the Members will understand fully what the Senator from New Mexico is doing, his amendment, as I understand it, would knock out $118 million, leaving only $28.8 million to be available for the space-based laser program.

I rise to offer my support for this space-based laser and to oppose the amendment to strike funding of this important program.

Clearly, one of the most serious threats facing us today is that of ballistic missiles. As rogue nations or terrorist organizations have the ability to develop more sophisticated means to deploy weapons of mass destruction, it is incumbent upon us, then, to develop the wherewithal to render those threats ineffective. Increasing funding for other programs, as the Senator originally intended, by taking it out of the space-based laser would have been a mistake, and I think to have this kind of cutback down to only $28 million reduces our ability to really develop the sophistication and the degree of the development of the program that we have the capability to reach.

It is time that we actually do something on this now. We have talked about it, we have had funding, we have had progress made, there has been real development capability reached, yet we continue to sort of shove it off and say, `Someday. Right now this threat is not serious enough.' I maintain it is very serious.

We currently have no effective defense to counter the ballistic missile threat, particularly in the early launch phases when defensive measures are the most effective. I think the American people would be alarmed if they had an opportunity to stop and think about this, the fact that we have not developed this effective defense to this threat.

Space-based laser offers potentially one of the most effective solutions to this threat, utilizing relatively mature technologies for boost phase missile defense because we have been working on this, because we have expended funds in this area. So not only does this capability provide an effective protective blanket, but it also serves as a strong deterrent against the launch in the first place, as the boost phase interceptor ensures a destroyed missile falls within the short range of the launch site. So that is a very important factor. It would be a deterrent to launching in the first place, if you knew it might, as a matter of fact, land generally in the area or in the country that fired such a missile.

This inherent capability offers the initial and most effective defense against ballistic missiles. Coupled with terminal and midcourse defenses that we are now procuring, it provides an architecture that is robust to a wide variety of threats.

Moreover, the program is achievable, it is achievable, within current technical and political constraints. The program received a very positive endorsement from the Ballistic Missile Defense Office Independent Review Team which has assessed the program as low risk and capable of achieving a 2005 launch goal, yet it is fully compliant with the ABM Treaty. It in no way commits to us an operational system, but it is absolutely essential to the research and development efforts that preserve our option for such a program in the future.

Space-based laser is clearly the future national missile defense system of choice. It affords us the opportunity to protect the Nation, our military forces and our allies against the ever-growing threat for ballistic missile-deployed weapons of mass destruction. In fact, I think it is the greatest threat that we face today in the world. We cannot ignore it. We should not delay taking actions any further.

The early boost phase negation potential that spaced-based lasers can provide is essential. It is a critical component of our future national defense. We must ensure that the

space-based option is carried forward with vigor and a sense of priority. If we cut it down to only $28 million, or something short of $29 million, we are not going to be able to go forward with this mature program in a vigorous way in one that gives it priority.

By the way, the people we have running this program now are very good and they are doing a good job. They have gotten the Secretary of Defense's attention to this program. So as this technology matures, I think it is clear that we now are at the point where we should build a demonstrator and show that, in fact, it will work.

I thank the Senator from New Hampshire for the work he has done on this, both in the committee and on the floor. Senator Smith is prepared to debate this issue further. Without his efforts, without his attention, this program would not be where it is today and we would not be able to go forward with it in the way we need to now.

I strongly urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment to cut the bulk of the funding for the space laser program.

Mr. President, I thank the chairman again for his support in this area. This is something we clearly should be doing. I hope the amendment will be defeated.

I yield the floor.

[Page: S7187]

PRIVILEGE OF THE FLOOR

Mr. BINGAMAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that Dr. Robert Simon, who is detailed to my staff from the Department of Energy, be permitted privileges of the floor for the duration of the debate and during any votes occurring on that bill.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

AMENDMENT NO. 799, AS MODIFIED

Mr. BINGAMAN. Mr. President, I send a modified version of the amendment to the desk and ask that it be so modified.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The amendment is so modified.

The amendment (No. 799), as modified, is as follows:

At the end of subtitle A of title X, add the following:

SEC. 1009. DECREASED AMOUNTS FOR SPACE BASED LASER PROGRAM.

Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the total amount authorized to be appropriated under section 201(4) for the space based laser program shall be reduced by $118,000,000, and not more than $28,800,000 shall be available for the space based laser program.