Rumsfeld makes his case
for building missile defense
- The United States needs a national missile defense and could
deploy the system even before all the technical bugs are worked
out, Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday.
missile defense - not only homeland defense but also the ability
to defend U.S. allies abroad and our friends - must be achieved
in the most cost-effective manner that technology offers,"
Rumsfeld testified during his confirmation hearing before the
Senate Armed Services Committee.
end of the six-hour hearing, panel members from both parties
assured Rumsfeld he would be swiftly confirmed after
President-elect George W. Bush's inauguration on Jan. 20.
pledged to push for a major increase in the Pentagon's $310
billion budget, improve military readiness, transform the armed
forces to meet 21st century threats, bolster intelligence
gathering and implement wide-ranging acquisition and budgetary
68, was secretary of defense for 14 months between 1975 and 1977
under former President Gerald Ford.
major differences over issues such as missile defense, the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and nuclear testing, committee
Democrats did not get tough with Rumsfeld.
there were hints during the session of future frictions.
for example, reminded Rumsfeld that China and Russia strenuously
oppose U.S. missile defense plans, and NATO partners also have
serious reservations about it. Rumsfeld promised he would consult
more closely with the European allies on missile defense.
that two of three tests of a prototype national missile defense
interceptor had failed to hit warheads in outer space, Sen. Edward
Kennedy, D-Mass., asked Rumsfeld if he would require the system to
pass a field test before declaring it ready.
would really like to avoid setting hurdles on this subject,"
replied Rumsfeld. But he went on to imply that a system that still
had technological problems could be deployed. He pointed out that
the United States began using its first spy satellites, code-named
Corona, before they were fully proved.
"failed something like 11, 12, or 13 times during the Eisenhower
administration and the Kennedy administration," Rumsfeld said.
"And they stuck with it, and it worked, and it ended up saving
billions of dollars because of the better knowledge we
deploying a national missile defense system, Rumsfeld continued,
was sufficient to force U.S. adversaries to think twice about
attacking the United States.
declined to discuss the kind of national and theater missile
defense systems that the Bush administration would seek. He said
that would be determined in a review.
the campaign, Bush spoke of developing globe-spanning land-, sea-
and space-based missile defenses capable of defending the United
States, its allies and its troops in the field from attacks by
missiles with nuclear, biological and chemical warheads.
experts, including prominent physicists, doubt that effective
missile defenses are possible. They doubt technology would ever
allow interceptors to distinguish between real warheads and
stuck to the national security platform Bush promoted in the
issues, such as U.S. military assistance to Colombia's anti-drug
efforts, Rumsfeld declined to offer his position, saying he had
yet to be briefed or that he would await the results of a defense
the topics on which he would not be pinned down was the exact size
of the Pentagon spending increase he would seek. But he held out
the possibility that the defense strategy review could target
big-ticket weapons programs for elimination.
the campaign, Bush promised to raise military spending by at least
$45 billion over a decade. But the sum is insufficient to cover a
shortfall - estimated at $50 billion to $100 billion per year
- between what the Pentagon needs to buy new aircraft, guns and
ships now on order and the funds it will actually have available.
Bush's plan include funds for the larger missile defense system
he has proposed. President Clinton was pursuing a more limited $60
billion system, but deferred a decision on going ahead with
deployment to his successor.
Many experts, including some who advised Bush on defense during the campaign, say the funding shortfall will force the incoming administration to cut or scale back major weapons programs.