LONG OVERDUE STEPS TOWARD A MISSILE DEFENSE
President Bush recently announced plans to develop a National Missile Defense (NMD) system that would protect the United States and our allies from future attacks by rogue nations and terrorist groups. This robust, multi-layered system would incorporate ground and sea-based assets initially, and would also protect the U.S. from accidental and unauthorized launches.
I strongly support the President in this important initiative. Even though the Cold War is over, the world remains a dangerous place and the threats are growing. Rogue nations such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea have, or will soon have, the capability to launch a ballistic missile against the United States or its allies. Some of these countries have already conducted test launches. Many have extensive nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs; and a few of these countries are proliferating these dangerous technologies to others. Of particular concern to the U.S. is that many of these states use terror and intimidation as major foreign policy tools.
Deterrence alone is no longer an effective strategy. We must also develop the means to defend ourselves from the unpredictable and ever-changing threats we face today. Moreover, by building a missile defense system, we will also prevent the blackmail and coercion that adversaries may employ to limit our freedom of action abroad when our allies or interests are threatened. In addition, we may also deter potential adversaries from pursuing costly and time-consuming programs to build these destructive weapons.
Today's world is fundamentally different than it was 30 years ago. For that reason alone, we need different concepts and capabilities in order to defend our country and our interests. We must move beyond the constraints of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and do what is necessary to protect ourselves. That said, we should work with our allies and the Russians to establish a new framework, and a new relationship, that reflects today's strategic environment. To this end, the President will send senior U.S. officials to consult with our allies in Europe, Asia, and Canada, and to reach out to other interested countries. I applaud the President's willingness to take the time to hear the views of our friends and allies.
I am troubled that some do not recognize the need for measures that enhance our national security. Critics charge that missile defenses will start a new arms race, yet they fail to mention that China and Russia have been modernizing their nuclear forces for years. Opponents of NMD also cite the threat posed by "suitcase bombs" and other means as the ones requiring greater emphasis. We all agree that the United States should seek to counter the threat posed by terrorists armed with a weapon of mass destruction. This is why we spend more than $11 billion a year to deal with threat of terrorist attacks. At the same time, though, the $2 billion we spend annually on missile defense is wholly inadequate for addressing the rapidly growing threat of a missile attack. We need to do both in a balanced manner.
The federal government's primary role is to protect our country and its citizens. We in Congress are working to ensure that our military has the resources it needs, while we also strive to improve our defenses against terrorism and missile attack. While advances in technology have made the world smaller and the threats greater, they have also improved our ability to defend against these threats. But first, we must change our way of thinking as we seek to develop and employ new systems and technologies. What Thomas Jefferson said 200 years ago still rings true: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."