The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.
Mr. KYL. Notwithstanding the pending business, I ask unanimous consent that I be permitted to enter into a colloquy with some members of the Armed Services Committee.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. KYL. I would like to enter into a colloquy with the distinguished manager of the Defense Authorization bill and several other members of the Armed Services Committee who share my concerns about the Pentagon's failure to date to respond to a requirement established first by the Committee in its action on last year's DoD bill, and then by the conferees on that legislation.
The first of these requirements was for the Defense Department to provide a study of the contribution that the Navy's Upper Tier--or Theater Wide--anti-missile defense program, based on the AEGIS fleet air defense system, could make to protecting the United States against long-range ballistic missiles. The due date for this report was February 15, 1998.
The conferees added to this requirement by directing the Department to report by that same date on `the feasibility of accelerating the currently planned Navy Upper Tier deployment date of fiscal year 2008' including an estimate of `the cost and technical feasibility to options for a more robust Navy Upper Tier flight test program, the earliest technically feasible deployment date and costs associated with such a deployment date.'
Mr. President, many of us believe that the AEGIS Option may be the most expeditious, capable and cost-effective way to begin providing ballistic missile defense--not only for our forces and allies overseas but for the American people, as well. This is the case because the Nation has already spent nearly $50 billion building and deploying virtually the entire infrastructure we need to field the first stage of a world-wide anti-missile system.
Mr. INHOFE. Would the Senator yield?
I want to commend the Senator from Arizona for his leadership in identifying and encouraging this important program.
I too have, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, looked at the issue of our vulnerability to missile attack and concluded--as has my friend from Arizona--that it is one of the most serious shortcomings we have in our entire military posture.
I too have concluded that there is nothing we could do that would be faster or more effective than the AEGIS Option in terms of defending our people against the sorts of threats we now read about practically every day--from the thirteen ICBMs China has pointed at our cities, to the possibility of an accidental Russian missile launch, to the Indian, Pakistani, Iranian and North Korean missile programs, to Saddam Hussein's VX never gas-laden missiles and so on.
Does the Senator know why the Pentagon has not provided the information we requested last year? Our bill specifically said February.
Mr. KYL. It is my understanding that this study has been complete for some time--well over a month. In fact, in early May, the President's key NSC staffer in the defense and arms control field, told a public meeting that it was `in the mail.' The staffer seemed to be saying that his office as well as the Defense Department had finished reviewing it and would be providing it promptly. Lt. Gen. Lyles did brief me on the study, and he has kept a dialogue open with my staff, but our preference is to receive the report.
Mr. INHOFE. Has the Senator any indication about the cause of the further delay?
Mr. KYL. I am advised that the study has been objectively perfomed. As a result, it confirms what the Senator from Oklahoma and I and others have been saying for some time: The Navy's AEGIS system can contribute significantly to protecting the United States against missile attack--and do so relatively quickly and inexpensively.
Weeks and months have now gone by, the DoD authorization bill is nearly at the end of the legislative process and the delay has kept Members in the dark about an important opportunity we have for adding promptly and cost-effectively to our Nation's defense.
Mr. SMITH of New Hampshire. As the Senator from Arizona knows, I took the lead as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee's Strategic Subcommittee in drafting these reporting requirements. I think that, if what the Senator has been told is accurate, the Administration's conduct would not only be unresponsive to the mandate of Congress, but irresponsible with respect to our national defense.
It would be completely unacceptable if Congress were to be denied information it has sought, not because the information is unavailable, but because its conclusions are inconvenient to an Administration that is determined to do everything it can to prevent the deployment of missile defenses.
As Chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee it is my responsibility to ensure that missile defense programmatic decisions are based upon solid information and facts. The report we are currently discussing is key to my subcommittee's future decisions on program direction and funding for missile defense. This report is one part of the process of examining our NMD program objectively, comparing the merits of each and deciding where future resources should be applied.
Mr. WARNER. I want to identify myself with the statements of my distinguished friends and colleagues from Arizona, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire on this matter. I have been privileged to have a long association with the Navy, an association that continues to this day in my capacity as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee's Seapower Subcommittee.
Over many years, I have watched the AEGIS system develop and mature as a formidable fleet air defense capability. I am persuaded that even greater returns can be realized from the wise investment our Nation has made in this system by adapting it not only to provide defenses against relatively short-range ballistic missiles but against the long-range ones that threaten our own people, as well.
I believe we need to receive the contents of the requested study of the AEGIS Option forthwith. I will be happy to work with the Chairman of the Committee, with the Chairmen of our Strategic Subcommittee and our Readiness Subcommittee and with others like the Senator from Arizona to ensure that we find out at once where this document is and, to the maximum extent possible, that we share its conclusions with the American people.
Mr. THURMOND. Let me say, Mr. President, that I would find it unconscionable if the Department of Defense were to be deliberately withholding a study that we sought in connection with our legislative responsibilities. We need to get to the bottom of this matter and I intend to do so.
Mr. INHOFE. I would say to the Chairman that I hope he would agree to consider taking some stern measures in the conference committee if this study--which is now over four months overdue--continues to be kept from the Congress. One option that could be in order would be to `fence' the funds for the Office of the Secretary of Defense until such time as the AEGIS study is provided to us in both a classified and unclassified form.
Mr. SMITH of New Hampshire. I for one would be prepared to support such a measure, should that prove necessary.
Mr. THURMOND. I can assure my colleagues that we will get this study one way or the other and I appreciate their excellent work on this issue.
Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Oklahoma and the Senator from Virginia for their strong leadership on this matter.