THEATER MISSILE DEFENSE IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1998 -- HON. KEN BENTSEN (Extension of Remarks - March 31, 1998)
HON. KEN BENTSEN
in the House of Representatives
MONDAY, MARCH 30, 1998
- Mr. BENTSEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this legislation, the Theater Missile Defense Improvement Act (TMD), H.R. 2786.
- I strongly support this legislation to provide additional funding to rapidly improve U.S. theater missile defense programs. The need for this legislation is clear. Last year, U.S. and Israel intelligence reports revealed that Russia engaged in a transfer of missile technology to Iran. An unclassified CIA report to Congress released in June, 1997 confirmed that Russia supplied a variety of ballistic missile-goods to foreign countries including Iran. These missiles have an expected range of 1,300 to 2,000 kilometers within the range of Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and 200,000 American military and civilian personnel.
- In response to this threat, last year the House passed legislation, H.R. 2709, to deter Russian assistance to Iran's missile program by imposing sanctions on foreign companies that assist its missile development. However, in the six months since the passage of H.R. 2709, Iran has successfully tested a medium range missile engine, and North Korea and Iraq have continued to expand their missile capabilities. In addition, in the six years since 28 soldiers lost their lives in a SCUD attack in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. still has not developed the ability to readily deploy defenses against sophisticated missile threats. The existing TMD systems were designed to repel older threats and have only limited capabilities against the newest generation of more capable missile systems.
- While I fully respect the goals of the Nunn Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which has provided assistance to Russia and other republics in dismantling and limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union, I am concerned that the third goal of this important program has been compromised. The third goal was to prevent the diversion of nuclear technology from the former Soviet republics to rogue states. The Israeli and U.S. intelligence reports confirm that Russia has violated the terms of the Nunn Lugar agreement, and I believe the rapid development of a deployable TMD system is needed to secure the interests of the United States and its allies, especially Israel, in the Middle East.
- The bill authorizes the Secretary of Defense to identify actions the Defense Department could take to counter the threats enhanced missile programs pose to the United States, establish cooperative measures between Israel and the United States to protect Israel against such threats, and develop a program to counter such threats within the next one or two years. In addition, it would provide funding to ensure that the capabilities of U.S. TMD systems keep pace with missile development programs being undertaken by Iran, North Korea and other regional threats.
- I believe that passage of this bill is vital to U.S. security and interests in the Middle East, and I urge my colleague to support its passage.