- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday basked in the successful weekend test of a ballistic missile interceptor, saying the technology "is within our grasp" to build a global defense against a wide variety of ballistic missiles.

"These tests are designed to demonstrate that ballistic missile defense is no longer a problem of invention, but rather a challenge of engineering," Mr. Rumsfeld said in a video message to missile-defense advocates meeting in Huntsville, Ala. "Future generations will look back on this time and see that we rose to this challenge. The technology to do so is within our grasp."

He said the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) plans at least 20 intercept tests over the next five years. The BMDO director has said that the president should be able to make a decision sometime between 2005 and 2010 on deploying a land-, sea- and space-based system.

On Capitol Hill, defense aides said the successful test intercept of dummy ballistic missile warhead over the Pacific Ocean came at a particular fortuitous time for anti-missile advocates. Congress is about to debate President Bush's request to boost missile defense research and development spending by 60 percent, to $8.3 billion in fiscal 2002.

The spectacular intercept captured by Pentagon cameras bolsters the president's argument that a global system can work if weaponeers are given the resources and motivation, the staffers said.

"Let's put it this way," said one Senate defense aide. "If the test had failed, we would have been in trouble. Now, we have a fighting chance to get the $8 billion."

Mr. Rumsfeld made his first appearance on Capitol Hill since the test success. He defended an accelerated and expanding testing program that will see six flight tests in the next year, a much faster and more complex regime than the one followed by the Clinton administration.

"The president intends to have ballistic missile defense to protect the population centers of the United States as well as of our friends and allies and deployed forces," Mr. Rumsfeld told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense.

The Republican-controlled Appropriations Committee may be an easy sell for Mr. Rumsfeld. Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Lewis, California Republican, and Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, ranking Democrat, both strongly support defenses against long-range missiles such as the one launched Saturday, and short-range missiles such as Iraq's Scuds.

"I personally feel strongly that you are addressing a subject forthrightly here that's critical to America's interests," Mr. Lewis said.

But in the Democratic-run Senate, Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, is said to want to cut $3 billion from Mr. Bush's missile defense budget and use the money for qualify-of-life improvement for military personnel.

And Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, delivered a strong floor speech last month questioning any rush to deploy the system.

"I do not support the deployment of a multibillion-dollar scarecrow that will not be an effective defense if a missile is actually launched at us," Mr. Byrd said.

Mr. Rumsfeld's pitch is that the 60 percent increase in anti-missile spending next year represents less than 2.5 percent of the Pentagon's proposed $329 billion budget. For that relatively small investment, he said, the Pentagon may one day be able to protect troops overseas against Iraqi-style missiles, while protecting citizens at home against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

A House Armed Services Committee member who was recently briefed on the military situation in Asia said yesterday a joint missile defense with Taiwan and Japan is worth looking into.

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, California Republican, was responding to remarks by the Republic of China (Taiwan) leader, Chen Shui-bian, who in an exclusive interview with The Washington Times compared China's missile threats against the island to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and suggested the United States, Japan and Taiwan jointly develop missile defenses. "Asia Pacific peace and stability is in Taiwan's interest; it is also the common interest of the United States and Japan," Mr. Chen said in the interview published yesterday.

Mr. Cunningham said a joint missile defense with Taiwan and Japan would help protect U.S. military forces if a war erupted in the region.

"I just had a briefing on the submarine vulnerabilities in that area if we were going to defend Taiwan, we're going to lose ships to submarines, and especially to the surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missiles that China has, and North Korea," Mr. Cunningham said. "So to defend our guys going in there, I think it's more to defend us than it would be actually to defend" other nations.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said he couldn't comment on something that doesn't yet exist. "There's no particular program or proposal to discuss of that kind."

•Dave Boyer and Nicholas Kralev contributed to this report.

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