News



February 25, 1999
Setting the Record Straight on S. 257: The National Missile Defense Act of 1999
Myth Vs. Fact

The United States is defenseless against ballistic missile attack. Despite a growing and recognized threat, the Clinton Administration refuses to make a commitment to defend our nation from limited ballistic missile strikes.

S. 257, the National Missile Defense Act of 1999, would make it U.S. policy to deploy as soon as technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against ballistic missile attack -- whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate.

This bi-partisan bill, sponsored by Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI) along with 51 co-sponsors, is one sentence long with strikingly clear language. Yet critics have done their best to misinterpret and misrepresent this bill. Since the Senate will likely debate S. 257 soon, it is imperative that the record be set straight. Listed below are the charges made against the bill followed by the facts.

Charge: The Cochran-Inouye bill is unnecessary and will not bring deployment any sooner. The U.S. is already proceeding as fast as it can.

Fact:

Charge: The Cochran-Inouye bill oversimplifies the missile defense equation, ignoring several other considerations.

Fact:

Charge: The Cochran-Inouye bill mandates deployment of a defense regardless of the security costs, primarily the potential of Russia to refuse to ratify START II, which would sacrifice offensive reductions and would increase the possibility of accidental nuclear attack. It might induce China to increase its arsenal to overcome U.S. defenses.

Fact:

Charge: The bill mandates deployment of a defense regardless of its operational effectiveness and says nothing about the performance requirements.

Fact:

Charge: The Cochran-Inouye bill mandates deployment of a defense that is not even designed to protect against most types of missile threats, including short-range ship-launched short missiles, and chemical and biological weapons if divided into hundreds of simple bomblets.

Fact:

Charge: The Cochran-Inouye bill mandates deployment of a defense that cannot work against real-world missile threats. Because the system "is designed against a long-range missile carrying a single warhead" it cannot work against countermeasures.

Fact:

Charge: The Cochran-Inouye bill mandates deployment regardless of the real nature of the emerging threat to the United States, including "more effective" delivery means such as truck bombs, suitcase-bombs, and other covert methods. Missiles leave a trail but covert means avoid retaliation.

Fact:

Charge: The bill sends the wrong message to Russia about renegotiating the ABM Treaty, indicating the U.S. is willing to withdraw from the treaty if it cannot be modified and indicating "that the United States is unwilling to negotiate in good faith and to take Russian security concerns into account, thus sabotaging any negotiations before they even start."

Fact: