- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 2, 2002

The threat from long-range missiles continues to grow, but the Pentagon will not set an exact date for when the United States will deploy a missile defense system, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld says.
"Our position on this is that we're not going to set artificial deadlines," Mr. Rumsfeld said in an interview at the Pentagon last week with reporters and editors of The Washington Times.
"We're basically in a research and development mode, and to put target dates out there in an R and D, in an uncertain world like that, is not useful."
Mr. Rumsfeld said he could not estimate the earliest date that the United States could field an emergency missile defense system.
Mr. Rumsfeld said Pentagon missile defense developers were "moving forward" with several systems that had been restricted by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The Bush administration formally withdrew from the Soviet-era treaty last month.
"As we see things that look promising, we'll probably accelerate them," he said. "As we see things that look less promising, we'll do like we did with Navy Area Wide and not do it until we find a better way to do it."
The Pentagon is developing several types of missile defenses that can provide a layer of protection by knocking out missiles shortly after launch, in space during midflight, and as they near targets on the ground.
Among the systems being developed for defense against missile attack are long-range, ground-based interceptors and radar sensors, Aegis-equipped ships with missile interceptors, a laser-equipped Boeing 747 and a space-based laser.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he is hopeful that a House-Senate conference on a defense spending bill will allow the Pentagon "to basically go forward with our program" without policy or funding curbs.
Senate opponents of missile defense, led by Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, tried and failed last week to cut missile defense funds by $814 million.
Debate on the issue held up final passage until Thursday on the $393 billion defense bill, which included more than $7.5 billion for missile defense for fiscal 2003.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish told reporters last week that efforts were being made to "deploy our systems as soon as possible."
"And I can't tell you the exact date right now, but we're heading somewhere in the mid-decade time frame, in the four-to-six-to-eight-year time frame of this decade," Gen. Kadish said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said missile threats are growing, with the North Koreans most likely to have a long-range missile capable of hitting the United States in the next several years.
North Korea surprised U.S. intelligence agencies by conducting a flight test of a long-range Taepo Dong missile in August 1999. U.S. intelligence agencies had predicted that it would be 15 years before any new long-range missile threats would emerge.
"What we're doing with this program is pressing forward with a substantially increased budget that we hope will get passed completely, with sufficient flexibility that we can go forward and do all of those things that we've not yet been able to do," Mr. Rumsfeld said when asked about North Korea's Taepo Dong missile development.
The missile threat is growing "every year that goes by" from "the countries that have development programs for ballistic missiles which include obviously countries like North Korea, Iran, Iraq is developing ballistic missiles," he said.
Iraq's missile program is supposed to be limited to short-range systems under U.N. restrictions. However, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "how far something goes depends on what you put on it."
"There's all kinds of ways to have something in excess of that which I have every reason to believe they do," he said.


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