American Legion
January 2000
Pg. 42

Should The U.S Have A Missile Defense System? YES

By Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas

We need a reliable and effective national missile defense system. Why? The answer is found within local headlines: "North Korea: We can Launch Missile," "Reports Say New North Korean Missile Could Hit U.S.," "Iraq Bids to Acquire Prohibited Missile Technology,'' and "China Tests New Missile." We need a new missile defense system because the threat has grown beyond countries with predictable global interests. More than 30 nations have ballistic missiles and Third World nations are armed with nuclear weapons.

The new threat is completely different than during the Cold War. The escalating proliferation of various weapons capabilities magnifies that danger even further. We must respond to that growing ballistic missile threat.

To achieve that, we must build a national missile defense system. Defending America outweighs our Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with a nation (the Soviet Union) that no longer exists. We do not have an obligation to constrain our capabilities to defend ourselves. We do have an obligation to protect our families, our communities and our country from attack.

Faced with developing such a system, the Clinton administration is reluctantly relenting. Congress passed the National Missile Defense Act of 1999 by an overwhelming vote. Confronted with that large consensus, the threatened veto never came.

Recently, the Army successfully stopped simulated shorter-range enemy ballistic missiles -- a first step in protecting the nation. This ability to "hit a bullet with a bullet,'' as some scientists describe the feat, lies at the heart of a national missile defense system that can defend the United States.

The Army's Patriot PAC-3 guards our troops against short-range missiles. The Theater High-Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) guards entire regions such as the Korean Peninsula. We have witnessed two successful THAAD shots and four good Patriot PAC-3 firings.

The Senate recently appropriated $3.8 billion for missile defense, but it is only a small down payment.

What we cannot appropriate and cannot waste is time. The time is now, before the next headline reads, "Missile Strikes U.S."