Missile Defense Update
Time is relatively elastic in the summer and occasionally articles begun aren’t finished. This can actually be a good thing if new information presents itself in the meantime.
Time is relatively elastic in the summer and occasionally articles begun aren’t finished. This can actually be a good thing if new information presents itself in the meantime. The Missile Defense Act, which passed the House and Senate earlier this year, states in its entirety:
It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as technologically possible an effective national missile defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate) with funding subject to annual authorizations of appropriations and the annual appropriation of funds for national missile defense. It is the policy of the United States to seek negotiated reductions in Russian nuclear forces.
We were writing about the legislation as a victory for the American people, who deserve to be defended. And as vindication for a small bipartisan group on the Hill who kept the issue alive, including some JINSA Henry M. Jackson Distinguished Service Award recipients – Rep. Curt Weldon (1999), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (1997), Sen. Daniel Inouye (1994), plus Sen. Thad Cochran and Rep. Dick Armey.
Now, here’s the part with the new information, good news and bad.
We were prepared to applaud the President’s signing of the legislation after vetoing a similar bill last year. And we were pleased that arms control official John Holum told a Senate hearing in July that last year’s Rumsfeld Commission Report had “a profound impact” on Clinton administration policy with its conclusion that North Korea and Iran could develop long-range missiles within five years and probably are secretly doing so. Holum said:
Cold war disciplines are gone. Technology is more widely available… In light of new estimates on the ballistic missile threat, in particular from North Korea and Iran, national missile defense is now closer to becoming another integral part of our strategy against proliferation… It’s important that the decision on [missile defense] architecture will be made based on the threat, based on security considerations. Then we’ll decide what amendments to the [1972 ABM] Treaty are needed and how to approach the Treaty. We’re not saying, “protect the Treaty, so tailor the defense to fit the Treaty.”
Unfortunately, while signing the bill on July 23, President Clinton undermined Mr. Holum when he said, “by specifying that any national missile defense deployment must be subject to the authorization and appropriation process, the legislation makes clear that no decision on deployment has been made.” He added that the second sentence of the two-sentence bill “puts Congress on record… reaffirming my Administration’s position that our missile defense policy must take into account our arms control and nuclear nonproliferation objectives.”
We agree with Sen. James Inhofe, who said, “The whole point of the bill is to make an affirmative national decision on deployment. The references to ‘authorizations’ and ‘appropriations’ are nothing more than policy-neutral statements of fact about the legislative process. For the President to argue differently is shameless.” And further, “The stated goal of seeking negotiated reductions in Russian nuclear forces is a wholly separate statement of policy, not a contingent one.”
We need missile defense. Congress has it right and Mr. Holum has it right. Mr. President?