Friday, February 18, 2005

Defense Secretary Makes Case For Funding Missile Defense

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged Thursday that installing a planned missile-defense system would not serve as a deterrent to nations considering such an attack on the United States unless the system works. Until now, Rumsfeld and senior military officers have argued that even if the system is not fully functioning, installing it while continuing to test would convince potential foes not to attempt a strike. "It strikes me as a little odd that we would deploy a system that hasn't succeeded and expect that to serve a deterrent value," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., told Rumsfeld during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I agree with that point, that there's no deterrent if something is known to not work," Rumsfeld said. But Rumsfeld also said the best way to develop a system is to get it into the ground, work out the problems and keep testing so the capability evolves into the early stages of a missile defense. "If you didn't do anything until you could do everything, you probably wouldn't do anything," he said.
The White House wants to spend $8.8 billion on ballistic-missile-defense programs in 2006, down from $9.9 billion authorized for this year. The Bush administration had ordered the system to be deployed by the end of 2004. It has not been, and no new date for deployment has been set. During a test Monday, an interceptor missile that would in theory destroy a missile targeted for the United States failed to launch at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. A similar failure occurred Dec. 15. Before that, the most recent test was conducted in December 2002; it also failed. The last successful test interception was in October 2002. The Armed Services Committee also heard testimony from Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said U.S. military officials in Iraq have determined that insurgents there can conduct up to 60 strikes a day nationwide, with occasional spikes above that. Myers also repeated concerns that some Army Reserve units are not at desirable readiness because of equipment shortages that occur when units leave their gear in Iraq. The shortages, as well as other strains on the military, could compromise the Pentagon's ability to quickly respond to a major crisis elsewhere in the world, he said. Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a committee member, and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said they would introduce legislation to expand the Army by 30,000 troops and the Marines by 3,000. "We don't have the same flexibility and ability to respond to other crises," said Reed, a graduate of West Point. Hagel said the military's capability to deal with another major war has dropped to a point where troops deployed would be underequipped, undertrained and short on manpower. "When you are too thin, you put your troops in further peril," Hagel said. "You further jeopardize an already jeopardized force." Their proposal would increase the size of the Army to 532,400 and the Marines to 181,000.