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A Proliferation Primer

Speech by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)
March 25, 1998
National Defense University Foundation
Breakfast Series on Missile Defense, Proliferation, and Arms Control


Opening Statement

Senator Cochran opened by saying that the object of "The Proliferation Primer" was to focus attention on the serious challenge the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and their means of delivery, pose to U.S. national security interests in the post-Cold War world.

He said that the primer was a result of information received during last year's hearings of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation, and Federal Services.

In order to meet this threat, Cochran said, it was imperative that the United States deploy a National Missile Defense (NMD) system as soon as technologically feasible. Therefore, he has introduced legislation to that effect, "The American Missile Protection Act of 1998 (S. 1806)."

"The American Missile Protection Act of 1998 (S.1806)"

Cochran then outlined the major provisions of the bill, saying that it contained six findings and stated U.S. missile defense policy. The findings were:

(1) The threat of WMD delivered by long-range ballistic missiles is among the most serious issues facing the U.S.

(2) The long-range ballistic missile threat to the United States is increasing.

(3) The ability of the United States to anticipate the rate of progress in rogue ballistic missile programs is questionable.

(4) The failure to prepare a defense against ballistic missiles could have grave security and foreign policy consequences for the United States.

(5) It is imperative for the United States to be prepared for rogue nations acquiring long-range ballistic missiles armed with WMD.

(6) The bill acknowledges that the United States has no defenses deployed against WMD delivered by long-range ballistic missiles and no policy to deploy such a NMD system.

The bill concludes by stating: "It is the policy of the United States to deploy, as soon as technologically possible, a National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate)."

He stated that this bill accomplishes two things:

"(1) It sends a clear message to any rogue state seeking ballistic missile delivery systems that America will not be vulnerable to these weapons indefinitely.

(2) It affirms that the United States will take steps necessary to protect its citizens from missile attack."

Cochran indicated that this is a bi-partisan bill, with Senator Inouye (D-HI) as the prime cosponsor. Additionally, Cochran said, he currently has a "dear colleague" letter circulating on the bill and has picked up a number of other cosponsors.

Cochran said that he hopes to pick-up some additional Democratic cosponsors for S. 1806, put fears the Administration may put pressure on Democrats not to cosponsor the bill.

Questions and Answers

Q. Senator Cochran, during last year's Subcommittee hearing with John Holum, Director of ACDA, you brought up five possible violations of the ABM Treaty which would occur if the U.S. deploys an NMD system as envisioned under the Administration's "3+3" NMD deployment plan. The most important of these violations is the provision of the Treaty that prohibits the deployment missile defense for "country wide" defense. Are you still concerned about this?

A. Cochran replied that this is a very complex issue, but said that the bottom-line is that the U.S. needs to be able to protect its territory from missile attack. He said that the Russians need to understand that the reason why the U.S. is developing advanced BMD systems is not because of Russia, but because it needs to defend itself from new threats. He then asserted, "There will come a time when Russia will discover that they will face these same threats."

Q. Do you plan to bring the issue of ABM demarcation and multilateralization up this year?

A. Cochran replied that he and other members of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee have met with the Administration on this issue and have raised their concerns. He further said that he believed both the demarcation and multilateralization agreements were completely unnecessary, and came back to his statement that U.S. BMD efforts are not focused against Russia but against other threats.

Q. Do you believe the Administration will submit the ABM Treaty agreements to the Senate this year?

A. Cochran replied that while he hoped the Administration would forward the agreements to the Senate this year, but did not believe it was likely. He said that there is very little the Senate can do to force the Administration to forward the agreements. Cochran joked, "Unfortunately we can't send the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms down to the White House to bring up the agreements."

Q. Do you have a personal preference for an NMD architecture?

A. Cochran replied that he did not believe he was qualified to make such a judgment. However, he said both the Navy's sea-based Aegis system and the Air Force's Airborne Laser represented promising options.

Q. Your legislation does not require a date certain for deployment. However, do you have such a time in mind?

A. Cochran replied that he did not want to get into specific dates, for there needed to be adequate testing of the systems. When making a deployment date decision, Cochran stated that it was critical to listen to the experts who would know more about the technological feasibility issues.

Q. What's the likelihood of getting your legislation passed?

A. Cochran replied that the response has been encouraging. He stated, "I'm not predicting it will be passed, but I think the outlook is encouraging."