Mr. WOLF. Mr. Speaker, this past New Year's Eve, America lost a true patriot. Gen. Dan Graham, the father of SDI, the Strategic Defense Initiative, passed away that day. I want to share with our colleagues a column in today's Washington Times by Paul Weyrich which tells about the life of Dan Graham and his mission for a strong defense to protect the national security of the United States.
About six weeks ago, I received a newly published book with a personal note from the author hoping that I would find it useful. I read through the book and dropped the author a note suggesting that he appear on my program, `Direct Line,' to discuss the book. I received no reply and yesterday I found out why. Gen. Dan Graham passed away on New Year's eve.
None of his friends, even those who had worked closely with him over the years, knew just how critically ill Gen. Graham was in recent weeks. We had known for some time that he was suffering from cancer and for the past few months that he was unlikely to recover. But Dan Graham was never one to whine or complain. In fact, the only time I ever saw Dan Graham truly upset was at the funeral of his first wife, to whom he had been married most of his adult lifetime, and who was the mother of their two sons and five daughters. This nation owes Gen. Graham a great debt of gratitude.
I had gotten to know Gen. Graham more than 20 years ago. He was chief of Defense Intelligence during the Ford administration. The Democratic Senate, then controlled by nearly a two-thirds margin, forced him into premature retirement because he wasn't politically correct on Vietnam. He was never bitter, even though he had every reason to be. He continued his work for a strong defense on the outside, just as he had done so ably from the inside for more than 30 years in the Army.
It was in the early 1980s that Gen. Graham began to talk about new breakthroughs in technology. The breakthroughs would permit an effective missile defense system to be constructed to defend this country from a massive attack from the Soviet Union or from a surprise attack from some rogue leader. We were going to build a primitive version of such a system in the early 1970s, but President Nixon bargained that right away.
I know almost nothing about technology and certainly had no knowledge about this sort of development, but Gen. Graham gave me the full briefing anyway and then asked for my help to find a home for his project, called `High Frontier.' I called Ed Feulner, the president of the Heritage Foundation, and explained that Gen. Graham was assembling a group of scientific experts who intended to advocate a new type of missile defense system. Ed quickly agreed that Heritage would welcome the project as part of its public policy activities, and thus was born what we now call SDI, the Strategic Defense Initiative.
Gen. Graham soon found a willing listener in one President Ronald Reagan, who in 1983 delivered a nationwide televised address that shook the leaders of the Kremlin. Mr. Reagan committed the United States to research and deploy a defensive missile system. Critics, in an effort to kill the project, quickly labeled it `Star Wars.' But given the popularity of George Lucas' trilogy, that label only enhanced it.
Despite near crippling opposition from the Democratic Congress, SDI made significant advantages under the Reagan administration, to the point where Soviet leaders were convinced that the United States was serious about deploying it. Some Soviet military leaders with whom I spoke early in this decade said that this shift in U.S. strategy was a contributing factor to the demise of the Soviet Union. SDI received only lip service from President Bush, despite the fact that Russian President Boris Yeltsin, in his first appearance as the leader of that nation, urged the United States and Russia to work together to develop SDI for the good of all mankind. Bush advisors were not enthusiastic about SDI because deployment would have required a change in the so-called MAD strategy, Mutual Assured Destruction, to which the United States has clung for decades. Still, SDI limped along and made modest progress.
When Bill Clinton took office, he all but killed SDI. The Republican controlled Congress, just a few weeks ago, passed a defense authorization bill that would have required deployment of a modified missile defense system by the year 2000. That was Gen. Graham's finest hour and thank God he lived to see it.
Unfortunately, President Clinton vetoed the bill precisely because he said it would have required the construction of that missile defense system, which he did not want. So despite a decade and a half of work by Gen. Graham, this country remains unprotected from a missile attack. Still, the issue won't go away.
There would have been no issue at all, and the technology developments which have resulted in drastically reducing the cost of an SDI system would not have occurred at all, but for the dogged determination of Daniel Graham. In literally thousands of meetings, public and private, Gen. Graham pushed this idea. It was Gen. Graham who convened a special meeting at my office to encourage opposition to John Tower as Secretary of Defense under then President-elect Bush on the grounds that Sen. Tower was an opponent of SDI. In Secretary Dick Cheney, Graham found someone much more to his liking.
All of this aside, Dan Graham was a decent, religious, family man who had an endearing sense of humor and was terrific at getting people, even opponents, to work together. He could be tough as nails if he opposed you on policy grounds, but Dan Graham was never mean spirited. He always handled opposition with great dignity, which was part of his military training.
This nation owes Dan Graham a great deal. And one day soon, we will have a system to protect us against some fanatic or deranged leader who wants to blow up part of America to make a point. When that day comes, and it almost came a few weeks ago, it will be because of the good work of this one time deputy director of the CIA. All of us who love America will miss this true patriot.