The White House Briefing Room

March 17, 1999


12:45 P.M. EST


                           THE WHITE HOUSE

                    Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                         March 17, 1999     

                         PRESS BRIEFING BY 

                        The Briefing Room    

12:45 P.M. EST

	     Q	  Why did the White House drop its objections to a 
missile defense plan?
	     MR. STEINBERG:  We did not drop our objections to a 
missile defense plan.  We're very pleased that the Senate adopted an 
approach which is fully consistent with the approach that we have 
advocated.  We've always said that we're prepared to support missile 
defense if it dealt with four particular areas of -- or criteria -- 
the threat, the feasibility, the cost, and arms control 
	     All of those factors have now been built into the 
legislation, and so this was now -- I think the Senate took a very 
constructive step in adopting an approach which is consistent with 
the one the administration has advocated.


	     Q	  Is there any regret at the White House that you 
didn't more aggressively pursue this idea of a missile defense 
earlier, that maybe at this point there could have been more progress 
toward that end, considering some of the developments throughout the 
world in terms of missile technology?

	     MR. STEINBERG:  I think if you look at the funding 
profiles and the activities, that we have spent a lot of money on the 
missile defense research.  It's been a very aggressive program.  It's 
a very difficult problem.  You've all heard about using a bullet to 
hit a bullet, and the technical difficulties.  This is a program 
which has been limited by technical limitations, largely, and not by 
a lack of aggressiveness about pursuing it.  We would like to have an 
effective program that meets the criteria that we've designed, but it 
has been the technical limitations up to now that have been a 
principal barrier.

	     Q	  Are you saying there's been no change in the last 
six months in the White House posture towards a defense initiative -- 
missile defense initiative?

	     MR. STEINBERG:  That's correct.  We said several years 
ago that when we laid out the basic three plus three approach that we 
would look at a period where we examined the technological 
feasibility, we followed that out.  It's been a consistent pattern 
over the last several years.


	     THE PRESS:  Thank you.

               END                      1:05 P.M. EST