Last Week, Congress Discussed Missile Defense in Hearings

March 27, 2003

Missile defense is playing a critical role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Successful intercepts of Iraqi missiles by Patriot missiles have proven that the fundamental missile defense technology works and that there is a real and credible threat. The war in Iraq also proves the capability of rogue states having the will and the platforms to launch missiles against our troops and allies. In just the last week, missile defense has fulfilled its crucial role in saving the lives of thousands of civilians, troops and allies.

Last week, Congress discussed missile defense in hearings before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. Both the House and Senate continue to support and agree on the need for national missile defense and its deployment. Because of the complexity, testing will be integrated with deployment (referred to as “operational testing”). In the beginning, we will have limited ability to stop a single warhead from coming into the United States, but as the system continues to develop our ability to stop an incoming missile will increase.

For purposes of national security, we need to have a system in place as soon as possible. A limited ability to protect our way of life is far better than no ability at all.

Senator John Warner (R-VA) stated, “We have absolutely nothing in place in this nation to interdict the rogue state from firing it, terrorists firing at us, or other means of a limited attack. That is unacceptable, and I think the steps taken by our President, and supported by the witnesses before us, are very prudent and the correct steps.” Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) stated, “The decision to develop and deploy a national missile defense against strategic missiles has been made…the question now is whether or not we are going to deploy a system which we take steps to assure will work. That’s the issue. And that’s where operational testing comes in.”

Assistant Secretary of Defense J.D. Crouch also gave a positive report on missile defense. “We are moving forward with missile defense to help protect American territory and forces abroad and our allies and friends against the use of missiles and weapons of mass destruction by unpredictable and, in some cases, irresponsible states.” Assistant Secretary Crouch also stated that “missile defense can help to reduce the proliferation of offensive missiles by reducing their value, thereby reducing the demand for them. In this way, we see defenses as a way to provide a useful complement to our other non-proliferation efforts.”

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