- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2002

President Bush yesterday said the United States will build a defense system against ballistic missiles, citing the growing threat of catastrophic attack by terrorists and emerging nuclear-missile states.
"I have directed the secretary of defense to proceed with fielding an initial set of missile-defense capabilities," Mr. Bush said in a statement.
A basic missile-defense system will be operating by 2004 and by 2005 will include up to 20 ground-based interceptors in Alaska and Southern California to thwart attacks by intercontinental ballistic missiles. It is the first time since the 1970s that the United States will have deployed a system designed to shoot down incoming missiles.
Additionally, up to 20 sea-based missile interceptors will be deployed on three Aegis-equipped Navy ships, along with 15 radar ships and long-range radar in the United States, Greenland and Britain. The system also will use 346 Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile systems to defend against short-range missiles.
Future missile defenses will include the Air Force's airborne laser, a high-powered device deployed aboard a Boeing 747, and the Army's Theater High-Altitude Area Defense, a ground-based defense against medium-range missiles.
"The deployment of missile defenses is an essential element of our broader efforts to transform our defense and deterrence policies and capabilities to meet the new threats we face," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush said the September 11 attacks "underscored that our nation faces unprecedented threats in a world that has changed greatly since the Cold War" and that "defending the American people against these new threats is my highest priority."
The system is a major strategic shift from the balance-of-power approach used during the Cold War, which relied on offensive missiles to deter a Russian nuclear strike. The new defense concept was backed by President Reagan, who first announced the Strategic Defense Initiative research program in 1983.
The decision comes a year after the president announced the United States' withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The move allowed more tests and ended the restrictions on developing missile defenses.
The deployment plan calls for transforming the missile-defense testing system of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) into an operational system, and then gradually improving it, Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, the agency's director, told reporters yesterday.
Gen. Kadish said the Pentagon spent $8 billion for all missile-defense programs this year and that to deploy the system will cost about $19 billion during the next two years.
Critics question whether Mr. Bush's goal is feasible and whether the threat of attack is sufficient to justify the expense.
David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists told the Associated Press the president's plan was unproven and illusory. He said a missile-defense system built in the 1970s was deemed inefficient and shut down in a matter of weeks.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he is not worried about deploying a system that may not be fully developed and that it will be "layered" so interceptors can hit missiles in the early, middle and late stages of flight.
"I think the way to think about the missile-defense program is that it will be an evolutionary program. It will evolve over a period of time," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Four of the last five tests of the ICBM-interceptor missile were successful. A Dec. 11 test failed when the interceptor did not separate from its booster.
Mr. Rumsfeld also said a limited system is "better than nothing," a recognition that the United States is defenseless against any missile attack, from either ballistic or ground-hugging cruise missiles. He said that since the early 1990s the Pentagon has been worried about the growing threat of missile attack from North Korea, which tested a long-range missile in 1998.
The deployment plan calls for first erecting six anti-missile interceptors at Fort Greeley, Alaska, and four interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base, located on the Pacific Coast north of Santa Barbara, Calif.
By 2005, 10 more long-range interceptors will be added to the Alaska base.
Additionally, three Aegis-equipped warships, either destroyers or cruisers, will be deployed with the Navy's SM-3 missile, which will be capable of shooting down medium-range missiles.
The entire system will be linked with advanced communications networks, radar and other sensors to track and target missiles.
Large radar stations in Shemya, Alaska; Fylingdales, Britain; and Thule, Greenland, will be upgraded for the system, and 15 Aegis ships will be upgraded to serve as missile-defense radars and deployed primarily throughout the Pacific.
"The Navy and MDA strategy for deploying SM-3 as soon as possible is exactly the evolutionary strategy advocated by Secretary Rumsfeld," said John J. Young, the assistant Navy secretary for acquisition who worked on the sea-based portion of the deployment scheme.
The use of Aegis ships will shorten the time it takes to deploy the limited system, Mr. Young said.
The ships eventually could be converted into a major sea-based anti-missile system with the addition of SM-3 missiles on the radar ships.
The president noted that the withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, which formally began six months ago, "has made it possible to develop and test the full range of missile-defense technologies and to deploy defenses capable of protecting our territory and our cities."
The treaty had prohibited deployment of defenses that protected the territory of the United States and the Soviet Union from missile attack, as part of an offensive missile strategy known as mutual assured destruction.
J.D. Crouch, assistant defense secretary for international security, told reporters the deployment decision was based on the fact that "threats are less predictable."
"Surprise is likely, and deterrence is less reliable," he said. "We think this requires a balance of offensive and defensive capabilities. We have some offensive capability; now we're just beginning to get some defensive capability."

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