American Forces Press Service

Cohen briefs Senate on national missile defense

Released: 27 Jul 2000

by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- A limited national missile defense would prevent nuclear blackmail against the United States and could "enhance deterrence and improve stability," Defense Secretary William S. Coh en said July 25.

Cohen, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the proliferation of long-range ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction are increasing challenges to U.S. national security.

"Our goal," he said, "is to provide protection to the American people against irresponsible nations, to prevent them from putting the United States in a position of being blackmailed and precluding us from taking action to defend our own national security interests."

He said the threat these weapons pose is "substantial," and that even the Russians have admitted this. He said Iran, Iraq and Libya are working on building a long-range capability.

He also said that while the United States is encouraged by the results of the recent summit of North and South Korea, "one summit doesn't change a tiger into a domestic cat."

Cohen said the United States needs to see actions from North Korea and not just words. They have tested an intercontinental-range missile and could build more, he said.

Cohen is reviewing the program and will make a recommendation to President Clinton in August on whether to proceed with the limited National Missile Defense program. Intelligence officials see the ICBM threat from "states of concern" emerging by 2005. For a defense system to be in place by then, construction must begin this year.

Of the last three tests of the land-based system, only one was successful. Cohen said he is taking this into consideration as he prepares his recommendation to the president. He said the system now is "possible" rather than feasible. "You ... would want to have something that ... you can reliably count on to work," he said.

The current estimated $20.3 billion cost of the National Missile Defense system through fiscal 2007 would cover 100 interceptors and radars in Alaska, Britain and Greenland. Of that cost, $5.7 billion was appropriated prior to fiscal 2001.

Cohen noted that having radars in Britain and Greenland make it imperative to have allied cooperation. He told the senators he is working with his counterparts and is discussing the threat and the NMD response.