Bush Vows To Beef Up Star Wars

New York Daily News 24 May 2000

George W. Bush yesterday said that as President he would vastly expand a planned missile defense shield and sharply reduce the country's nuclear arsenal.

In a major policy statement, the Texas governor outlined his "new approach" to nuclear strategy in an effort at bolstering his national security résumé.

Vice President Gore's campaign derided the Bush plan as irresponsible, and the White House bristled at the unveiling of a strategy proposal sure to anger the Russians as President Clinton preps for a June 3 summit with a wary new President Vladimir Putin.

White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said Bush "is the governor of Texas, not someone who sets our national policy."

Bush surrounded himself yesterday with foreign and military policy heavyweights, such as Henry Kissinger and retired Gen. Colin Powell, in plugging for a robust missile shield system reminiscent of the Star Wars proposal of former President Ronald Reagan.

President Clinton is considering deploying a modest missile defense by 2005, if the technology works, to protect the U.S. against a nuclear strike by a rogue nation.

But the ambitious Bush plan called for defending the U.S., European allies and Israel. He did not give cost estimates or possible deployment dates, but expressed confidence that the technology would be found to make the system work.

On nuclear warheads in the U.S. inventory, Bush said that if elected, "I'm going to get to a level of weaponry necessary to protect our interests, and I suspect it's going to be substantially lower than anticipated."

He said he was prepared to go lower than the 2,500 warheads for each side currently being negotiated with the Russians.

Independent defense analysts offered cautious praise for warhead reduction but ridiculed the missile defense proposal.

"The technology doesn't exist and cannot be shown to exist in the near future," said retired Rear Adm. Eugene Carroll, deputy director of the Center for Defense Information.

"Basically, this is just the missile defense plan his [Bush's] daddy inherited from Ronald Reagan," said John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists.