Mis­sile de­fense

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

House Democrats held a hear­ing last week fo­cus­ing on prob­lems with U.S. mis­sile de­fense. It in­cluded tes­ti­mony from two Demo­cratic crit­ics, for­mer Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion de­fense test­ing of­fi­cial Philip Coyle and for­mer Demo­crat con­gres­sional staff mem­ber Joseph Cir­in­cione.

Rep. John F. Tier­ney, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat and chair­man of the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign af­fairs sub­com­mit­tee, said at the April 30 hear­ing that ear­lier pan­els had “raised very se­ri­ous con­cerns about the ef­fec­tive­ness, ef­fi­ciency, and even the need for our coun­try’s cur­rent mis­sile de­fense ef­forts.”

Coun­ter­ing the crit­ics was Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. Ober­ing, di­rec­tor of the Pen­tagon’s Mis­sile De­fense Agency, who said the mis­sile de­fense op­po­nents are mis- guided.

“The fact is that many of our crit­ics dis­agree with the pol­icy choice that we ought to de­ploy strate­gic or tac­ti­cal sys­tems to counter the bal­lis­tic mis­sile threat,” Gen. Ober­ing said. “They have other ap­proaches, to in­clude, deny­ing that the threat ex­ists, or us­ing more desta­bi­liz­ing or de­struc­tive so­lu­tions.”

The Pen­tagon has a lim­ited mis­sile de­fense against long-range mis­siles with in­ter­cep­tors at bases in Alaska and Cal­i­for­nia and is grad­u­ally de­vel­op­ing bet­ter strate­gic de­fenses.

Gen. Ober­ing quoted from a draft pres­i­den­tial mem­o­ran­dum that stated: “A num­ber of ar­gu­ments for de­ploy­ment of a less-than-per­fect bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fense are most per­sua­sive. A bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fense, even though of lim­ited ca­pa­bil­ity, could be very ef­fec­tive against a sim­ple at­tack by a mi­nor power, a small ac­ci­den­tal at­tack, or a small at­tack con­strained by arms con­trol mea­sures.

“Such a de­fense would con­trib­ute to the de­ter­rence of black­mail threats and to the sta­bil­ity of arms con­trol agree­ments. A bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fense of lim­ited ca­pa­bil­ity would con­trib­ute to the de­ter­rence of large at­tacks by rais­ing doubts about the at­tacker’s abil­ity to pen­e­trate. Such a de­fense, even though lim­ited, greatly com­pli­cates the de­sign and tac­tics for of­fen­sive sys­tems.”

The mem­o­ran­dum was dated Oct. 6, 1962, dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy.

Bill Gertz cov­ers the Pen­tagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at bgertz@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

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