NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE (Senate - September 23, 1998)

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Mr. DODD. Mr. President, in light of the recent vote on national missile defense, I feel compelled to explain my position on this important issue. In short, I agree with this Nation's senior military officers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Each of them opposes the National Missile Defense bill, and they provided a detailed explanation of their position in a letter they sent to Capitol Hill prior to the vote.

The National Missile Defense bill would require that a national missile defense system be deployed as soon as it is `technologically feasible.' Conversely, the current plan calls for the Defense Department, by the year 2000, to research and develop such a system and then be able to deploy it within three years. This policy allows us to develop our capabilities in view of developing threats rather than run the risk of deploying a system that proves to be ineffective. In the absence of a current long range ballistic missile threat from a rogue state, this is the most reasonable policy.

Research and development of a National Missile Defense system is advancing at an accelerated pace. Most weapons systems require six to twelve years before they are fully developed and ready to be deployed, but under the current timetable, the National Missile Defense system will spend as little as three years in the development phase. This represents the Defense Department's strong commitment to protecting the United States from an intercontinental missile attack. That commitment is backed by billions of dollars in funding. The nation will spend nearly a billion dollars on national missile defense during the next fiscal year alone.

The National Missile Defense bill would not have advanced the timetable for developing and deploying a missile defense system. What it would have done is lock this nation in to buying a yet-to-be-developed system against an unknown threat for an unidentified sum of money. A decision to buy a system at such an early stage would not only have been unprecedented, but it could have sapped funding from programs that are directed at addressing existing threats. For example, the Joint Chiefs of Staff pointed out that a weapon of mass destruction may presently be delivered through unconventional, terrorist-style means, yet a national missile defense system would not address that threat.

This bill would have had a detrimental impact on arms control agreements. Had the United States gone forward to deploy a National Missile Defense system as the bill required, this nation would have violated the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Additionally, it might have caused Russia to withdraw from the START I Treaty and certainly would have prevented the ratification of the START II Treaty. The intercontinental ballistic missile threat to this nation will be intensified if Russia retains hundreds of additional nuclear weapons as a result broken agreements. The current policy, continued research and development of a system, would not violate arms control agreements or cause Russia to withdraw from treaties that place important limitations on both nations' missiles.

In conclusion, although I oppose this National Missile Defense bill, I feel strongly that there is an important place for missile defense in our national security strategy. There have been some important advancements in the development of both theater and national missile defense systems that will surely benefit this nation in the future. Our efforts along these lines must continue. Considering all of our defense and non-defense priorities, however, now is not the time to rush forward with a decision to deploy an undeveloped national missile defense system.

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