Cohen Announces National Missile Defense Plan


  By Douglas J. Gillert
 American Forces Press Service
  21 January 1999

 WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon will spend $6.6 billion over the next 
 six years to develop and possibly deploy a limited national 
 missile defense system. 
 On the day after President Clinton said in his annual State of 
 the Union address that the United States must do more to 
 restrain the spread of nuclear weapons and missiles, Cohen 
 described how DoD will guard America against rogue nation 
 missile attacks. Cohen; Army Gen. Henry Shelton, Joint Chiefs of 
 Staff chairman, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Lester Lyles, Ballistic 
 Missile Defense Organization director, described the plan Jan. 
 20 to Pentagon reporters.
 "We're affirming there is a threat and the threat is growing," 
 Cohen said. "We expect it will soon pose a danger not only to 
 our troops overseas but also to Americans here at home."
 The defense plan calls for a limited capability, one that would 
 defend the United States against attack by rogue nations, he 
 said. It would not provide a hedge against Russia's extensive 
 missile capabilities. 
 The need for limited national defense comes from growing 
 capabilities of nations such as North Korea that are building 
 and testing multistage rockets capable of carrying warheads, 
 Cohen said. North Korea's firing last August of a Taepo Dong 
 missile indicates "the United States in fact will face a rogue 
 nation missile threat to our homeland against which we will have 
 to defend the American people," he said.
 The envisioned system includes a satellite-based sensor to 
 detect the exhaust of a missile after it's launched, Lyles said. 
 Early-warning radar would track the missile's flight path, a 
 ground-based radar would target it, and a ground-launched 
 interceptor would destroy it.
 Cohen acknowledged the plan may require altering the Anti-
 Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty that the United States and the 
 Soviet Union (now Russia) signed in 1972. "We have amended the 
 treaty before, and we see no reason why it cannot be amended 
 again," Cohen said. He added, however, that the treaty provides 
 the right to withdraw with six months' notice "if a party 
 concludes it's in its supreme national interests."
 To avoid accusations of "rushing to failure" that have 
 surrounded development of a theater missile defense system, 
 Cohen said DoD will phase key decisions to occur only after 
 critical integrated flight tests. 
 "As a result, instead of projecting a deployment date of 2003 
 with exceedingly high risk, we are now projecting a deployment 
 date of 2005 with a much more manageable risk," he said. "But if 
 the testing goes flawlessly, we may be able to deploy sooner.
 "We cannot afford to fail," the secretary said. "The approach 
 that we are presenting today is the optimal one to provide a 
 capable national missile defense system as soon as possible."