NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 1999 (Senate - May 14, 1998)

Mr. SMITH of New Hampshire addressed the Chair.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Hampshire is recognized.

Mr. SMITH of New Hampshire. Madam President, I rise as chairman of the Strategic Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee to focus on some areas that are very critical to our Nation's defense. Certainly, `strategic' takes on a new meaning as we hear news in the last few days of what is happening in India.

We tried, in our subcommittee, to continue initiatives that have been started in previous years. At the same time, because of overall funding reductions, we were forced to make some substantial cuts, cuts that I did not want to make. But as part of the overall budget, we felt we had to do it. So we do have a budget cap, and that issue, in and of itself, is somewhat controversial.

I think it is time, as we look at the reduction in defense spending, to begin to look at that cap and, in my opinion, remove the cap. We must recognize that the defense budget has been cut deeply, and these cuts are beginning now to affect the effectiveness of our military force.

The budgets of both DOD and DOE, which are in my Strategic Subcommittee, had to be reduced. I tried to do that as fairly as I possibly could. Let me just outline some of the tough choices that we had to make. Missile defense, of course, is an area that I care deeply about. But there is some redundancy in some of the programs that we have. We have to begin to set some priorities.

The budget, as it was presented to us by the President, had some areas in it that were funded in this budget but not in future years. So the question is, If a program such as MEADS--Medium Extended Air Defense System--is not funded beyond 1999, what is the purpose of providing funding for it in fiscal 1999? So I tried to look at this. If I could not get a commitment from the administration to fund beyond fiscal year 1999, then I, for the most part, reduced or eliminated the funds for next year. In the case of MEADS, our intent is to encourage DOD to find alternative approaches to meeting the requirement. But we cannot support the program if DOD has no budget for it in the future.

Another very controversial reduction, which I was not happy about, was our cut of $97 million from the Airborne Laser Program. Because this was a tough decision, I want to explain what happened.

There were a lot of news reports that said we `slashed' the Airborne Laser Program, that we `ruined' the program, that we `killed' the program, that we have made it impossible for the program to recover, and so on. This is unfair and inaccurate. I simply felt that we had an obligation to review the technical and operational viability of the program.

Two years ago, our Committee included report language which basically called on the Air Force and Airborne Laser Program advocates to come forward and justify the program. I do not believe that they have done so.

So we withheld funds for placing this very complex technology on an actual aircraft, a 747, until the capability is more fully tested and the operational concepts are better defined by the Air Force. I do not want to go into great detail; to some degree I cannot because it is classified. But let me be clear--we only cut the dollars intended for integrating this technology on an aircraft. This does not destroy the Airborne Laser Program, nor does it make any comment, subtle or otherwise, by anyone on the committee that somehow this program is not worthy. It does require the Secretary of Defense, with the help of outside experts, to review the program's technology and concept of operations, and show us how this technology will work when it is placed upon an aircraft. I don't think it destroys the program to delay the purchase of an airplane for a year or two while we find out whether the technology and the operational concept is valid. This is what congressional oversight is all about.

We have increased funding for Navy Upper Tier, another missile defense program, and the space-based laser readiness demonstrator, which is the ultimate step, I think, in missile defense--the space-based laser.

We tried to reduce as much of the risk as possible in the NMD Program by encouraging the Department to modify the program. Currently the so-called 3+3 program is extremely high risk. To deploy a complex system in 3 years is very, very difficult. It is an artificially compressed date and an artificially compressed program. It requires us to do everything at once instead of running a low-risk program to ensure everything fits together first. There is no margin for failure or problems. If one thing goes wrong, the whole program could collapse. It needs to be run like any other defense acquisition program, with the objective of reducing the program risk.

With the Administration's 3+3 program, we must first decide that there is a missile threat to the United States. Then we assume that in 3 years we can deploy a system to intercept that missile. I think that assumption just does not make sense.

Can we depend on our intelligence to give us that information? I draw my colleagues' attention to what happened in the last few days with India's nuclear tests. We didn't, frankly, know what was happening until it happened. We either did not have that information, or we did not heed it.

I am not trying to fault the intelligence community, other than to say that intelligence is not always objective. It is not always thorough. It is not always timely. It is not always heeded. The question we have to ask is, Are we willing to take the risk once we know that somebody has the capability and the intent to use a missile against us, and are we then prepared to say that in 3 years we will have the technology deployed to intercept that missile? I am not prepared to take that kind of chance, which is why I was very disappointed in the vote in the Senate yesterday on Senator Cochran's legislation, which would have established a policy to deploy a national missile defense system when it becomes technically feasible. That wise legislation was rejected; it did not get enough votes to bring it to cloture. So the current administration plan for NMD 3+3 means an NMD system will be developed in 3 years, and when a threat is acknowledged this system

will be deployed in 3 years.

This just does not make a lot of sense. It naively assumes that we will see all emerging threats, and that if and when we see one, we can confidently deploy a complex system in just 3 years.

So I hope my colleagues in the Senate sometime sooner rather than later will come to the realization of how dangerous this 3+3 approach really is. Perhaps a few more unforseen nuclear tests will convince them. If not, this extremely naive and extremely dangerous complacency could cost us dearly in years to come. We are seeing proliferation of missiles, and of the technology to develop missiles, all over the world--China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Iran. And, yet, we were denied the opportunity yesterday on the Cochran proposal to get going on a national missile defense system.

It is extremely disturbing. As one who deals with these issues every day on the Armed Services Committee, and specifically as the chairman of the Strategic Subcommittee, I know full well that this is a naive policy. It is well intended--there is no question there--but naive.

Colin Powell, former National Security Adviser to President Reagan and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents Bush and Clinton, used to say we have to be concerned first and foremost about the capability of an enemy because we never know what his intent will be. The intent tomorrow might be good. It might be bad. But what is the capability? We all know that the Chinese, and the Russians, have the capability to fire a missile at the United States of America. Do they have the intent? Maybe not today. But what about tomorrow?

So we have to deal with capability. If we deny that, if we look the other way, we are really putting our heads in the sand.

In space programs, the committee increase funding for a range of activities: space control technology development; the enhanced global positioning system; the microsatellite program and the space maneuver vehicle. The budget for those programs were increased. These efforts are critical for the future exploitation and use of space by the United States.

Another area of the strategic forces subcommittee budget concerns weapons and other activities of the Department of Energy. We tried there to stabilize the core mission funding for weapons activities and environmental cleanup. As you know, we have a lot of environmental cleanup to do as a result of DOD and DOE activities over the past several decades, especially during the cold war.

So we tried in our budget to maintain the capability to remanufacture and certify enduring U.S. nuclear warheads. We tried to maintain the pace of cleanup at DOE facilities with our funding, and though the overall DOE budget was reduced, a number of funding increases were authorized for programs critical to achieving these goals.

Increases include additional funding for the four weapons production plants, tritium production, and environmental management technology development. Some will criticize these DOD cuts. But it is a matter of balance. If you look at the budget in real terms, since 1996, DOD funding has decreased by 5.2 percent, and DOE has increased by 7.7 percent.

We did the best we could. I hope that my colleagues will be supportive of the recommendations that we have made, not only in the Strategic Subcommittee but in other subcommittees as well. It is a tough job. I don't think there is a member of the committee who doesn't feel that we have gone probably too far, that we need to, perhaps, remove that budget firewall and begin to put more dollars into defense. But given the constraints of the budget agreement, we had to do with what we had.