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Seventh Annual Space and Missile Defense Confeernce
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Huntsville, AL, Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Thank you very much. (Applause continues.) Thank you, folks. Thank you very much. I appreciate that a great deal.
Conference Chairman Schreppel, Dr. Robertson, General Dodgen, ladies and gentlemen, this is an impressive gathering. Senator Jeff Sessions, I thank you so much for that very generous introduction.
It is a pleasure for me to be here for the seventh annual Space and Missile Defense Conference. I also want to thank you for your very able service on the Senate Armed Services Committee. You do a superb job, and -- as well as for your strong and effective support for the men and women in uniform all across the globe.
Mayor Spencer, Mayor Wells, we thank you for joining us.
It's hard for me to believe, but I think it's true that my first visit here was a very long time ago, in the early 1960s, when I was a congressman and serving on the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, and came here with Wernher von Braun. I can't be that old. (Laughter.)
Are there any folks here who were here 40 years ago, when I -- (laughter). Let's see a hand. Where is it, now? Oh, you were in grammar school. Come on! (Laughter.) Don't kid me.
But that was a long time ago. And I was impressed then, and it's a privilege to be back here. Think of how far we've come since those early days.
I'm sure that there are some who wondered if we'd ever see this day of “Deployment and Beyond.”  But here we are.
In addition to Senator Jeff Sessions, this program has received terrific support from Congressman Robert Aderholt. We appreciate it. We know your support and the energy you bring to the things that are important to this state and to these programs. I'm sorry that Senator Shelby couldn't be here. He's on travel, as I understand it. And I guess you are going to.  I guess Bud Cramer's not here also. But you're going to be hearing from Congressman Curt Weldon later in the day.
I also would say a word of gratitude to General Ron Kadish. He has really provided some extraordinary leadership in moving this program so far and so fast in recent years. He's also continued, importantly, the very robust research and development and testing program. We owe him a debt of thanks for his very able leadership and his truly distinguished career for our country.
Jeff mentioned the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission. I had been away from Washington for some -- in and out, really, for a period of years after I served as secretary of Defense the first time, and I'd come back as President Reagan's Middle East envoy, and then I'd leave, and then I'd come back for a commission or something. But when I came back in 1998 and was involved in that commission, I was stunned by how theological the missile defense debate had become. It was really a hair knot. Everyone felt something very, very strongly about it. Even the proponents disagreed very strongly. And the opponents disagreed very strongly. And things were pretty much on dead center as a result of it. It was a shame.
I think back. I happened also to have been in the White House at the invitation of President Reagan the night that he -- and Edward Teller was there and I recall he announced the SDI, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and was there to see that and hear President Reagan's vision for a missile defense system.
Well, it's been two years since President Bush announced the decision to deploy an initial missile defense capability and in the past few weeks, the first interceptor has been put in place in Fort Greely, Alaska. By the end of this year, we expect to have a limited operational capability against incoming ballistic missiles.
These achievements, I think, represent the triumph of hope and vision over pessimism and skepticism.
And I know that all of you, or at least most of you, have played a part in this important progress. I appreciate your hard work, your dedication and vision, and I must say, given the length of this program, your stick-to-itiveness. So I thank you all for your service to our country, in government and out of government, in uniform and out of uniform.
Your work is really an inspiration for those proponents who never doubted it would succeed; and, I suspect it's somewhat of a disappointment for those who were convinced it would fail.
The world has changed a great deal since President Reagan made his historic address to the nation on this subject. The Cold War, of course, is now over. There are no longer huge armies, navies, and air forces that are immediately threatening us. But as we've seen, that doesn't mean that the dangers have disappeared or even diminished.
I remember back when the ballistic mission commission was doing its work; there was practically not a week or a month that went by that there wasn't some significant event in the world. There was India and Pakistan missile launches and nuclear weapon explosions. There were various other things that happened in North Korea. And it seemed to punctuate the nature of the new world, the reality that we were facing.
In some respects, the threats are even more grave today.
Roughly two dozen countries -- including some of the world's most dangerous regimes -- possess ballistic missiles and are attempting to acquire missiles of increasing range and destructive capability. A number of these states are estimated by the intelligence community to have programs relating to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
North Korea, as we know, is working to develop and deploy missiles capable of reaching not just their neighbors, but our country and other countries as well. The same can be said of Iran. In fact, Iran had a test just this week -- last week, I guess.
More countries are developing and sharing information, when one thinks about it, as Libya's recent, amazing admission dramatically demonstrated. If you think about it, this A.Q. Khan network that had been functioning in the world -- not under the auspices of the Pakistan government -- but the head of the Pakistan's nuclear program on the side was conducting a business, in effect, and it was a business of dealing with a non-trivial number of nations with respect to important nuclear technologies.
And thanks to the good work of the United States intelligence community and others, cooperation from friendly foreign countries, that network was rolled up and Libya made what had to be considered an amazing announcement: that they were going to discontinue those programs and turn over those materiel to the United States.
I suppose one of the gravest threats facing civilized society in this new era is the potential that such weapons will find their way into the hands of terrorists, extremists -- people accountable to no nation, who abide by no international laws or standards of conduct, and who have absolutely no regard for human life, as we've seen.
On September 11th, the extremists killed some 3,000 people from many countries, men, women and children of every faith known. Were they to acquire more lethal weapons, the weapons they seek, clearly the toll in the future could be many times greater.
We call it a war on terror. In a real sense, it's really a struggle by civilized nations against extremists, and the weapon of choice for them is the use of terror. The purpose of terror, of course, is to terrorize. It's to alter behavior. It's to get people to stop doing something and start doing something else. And we simply, as free people, have to recognize that that strikes at the heart of what we are. You cannot be terrorized and continue to be a free person. We must not allow ourselves to be terrorized, and we must not let the extremists force us to stop being free people.
The extremists go to school on us. They watch our behavior. They watch what we do. I remember when I was Middle East envoy and a truck went into the Marines' barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing some 241 Marines. And I was asked by President Reagan and Secretary Schultz to assist, and obviously the first thing everyone did would be to put up barricades around the buildings so they wouldn't be blown up. The terrorists saw that and they started firing rocket-propelled grenades over the barricades into the buildings. So the next thing you go down to the Corniche, Beirut, Lebanon, and you see buildings draped with wire mesh to bounce off the rocket-propelled grenades. So the terrorists see that and they start going after soft targets, people going to and from work. So the point being that you cannot defend against terrorists at every time of the day or night, against every conceivable technique, in every conceivable location. So we have to be willing to go where they are and find them. And that's what this global war on terror is really about.
History has taught us that weakness is provocative. To the extent people see an area of weakness, they will take advantage of it. And we're seeing that in Iraq, we're seeing that in Afghanistan and we're seeing it around the world with the attacks that have taken place. We have a weakness, and it is a weakness with respect to ballistic missiles. And the longer the delay in deploying even a limited defense against these kinds of attacks, the greater the likelihood of an attempted strike. Additionally, without any defense against missiles, terrorists and rogue regimes could use the threat of an attack to try to intimidate the United States or our allies and friends from acting against them.
Recently we've seen that intimidation works. We've seen the actions in Iraq against the Philippines and Spain and the fact that they altered their behavior. And it was an unfortunate thing when one thinks about it. We all know that if you want more of something, you reward it, and if you want less of something, you penalize it. And the action, the effect of altering behavior in the face of a terrorist attack and a demand by a terrorist was to reward them, which suggests that we'll get more of that rather than less. And that's not a good thing for the civilized countries.
Some folks still argue that missile defense can't work, or even that if it did work, it's not a priority, or that missile defense is potentially destabilizing.
You have, in this room, helped to prove those critics wrong.
·        Testing continues to show that these systems can work.
·        And, quite apart from being destabilizing, missile defense continues to be a means, interestingly, of building closer relations with nations like Japan and Italy and Israel and others.
As enemies continue to adapt and evolve, so must our capabilities. And that's why President Bush directed the Department of Defense to pursue an evolutionary approach to the development and deployment of missile defenses.
Rather than waiting for a fixed and final architecture, we are deploying an initial set of capabilities. They will evolve over time as technology advances – and, as we're able to make these limited defenses somewhat more robust.
Testing and development will continue to improve the hardware and the software initially deployed in the field.  And we'll continue to take advantage of the most promising technologies as they come available.
Fielding modest capabilities in the near term will allow us to gain operational input from combatant commanders.
Over the past three years, our folks have conducted dozens of tests.  More are scheduled later this fall. We've learned that there have been some that have been successful -- and some that have not been successful.  And from time to time when one is not successful it's characterized as a failure.
The difficulty with that characterization, it seems to me, is that we learn from both the successes and the failures, and I can't quite imagine why one would characterize learning as a failure.
I was in the pharmaceutical business, and we would send our research and developers out to try to develop therapies that could help people live longer and live better. And they would proceed to experiment and try this and try that and fail and fail and, quote, unquote, "fail and fail," and in the end of that process learn from each of those activities what works and what doesn't work. And that is why you end up with products that can help people live longer, because of that series of things that get characterized in your business, in the newspaper, as a failure, as something that's bad and wrong or unfortunate or suggesting there's no way to get there from here. And I think people who've been involved in cutting-edge endeavors understand trial and error, and they understand the learning process.
The way ahead will have its share of stumbles, let there be no doubt, but we will not fail if we continue to benefit from leadership that combines vision with resolve.
President Reagan in 1983 had the vision to recognize that the United States and the Soviet Union need not be perpetually poised with fingers on nuclear triggers.  And he had the resolve to lead our country in pursuit of that vision -- even in the face of withering criticism from the so-called “experts” at home and abroad.
A generation later, President Bush provided leadership and vision when he resolved that it would not be in the U.S. interest to continue to be constrained by the 1972 ABM Treaty. He felt it prevented us from undertaking the necessary research and development, and he was right.
We were constrained from trying to do things that would help us find the most cost-effective and the most technologically effective way of achieving these kinds of capabilities. He said, quote, "No treaty that prevents us from addressing today's threats, that prohibits us from pursuing promising technology to defend ourselves, our friends and our allies is in our interest or in the interest of world peace." He was right.
He made the decision to field missile defenses, to work closely with our friends and allies, as we've been doing, and to establish a new strategic relationship with Russia.
I just left St. Petersburg day before yesterday and was meeting with the Russian minister of defense, Sergey Ivanov. We had talks about missile defense. And if one thinks about the tone and the cordial discussions, and discussing the possibilities of our cooperating; if one thinks of the discussion I had two days ago, three days ago, relative to what people said would be the case if we tried to pull out of the ABM Treaty -- that it would destabilize the world -- it is an amazing contrast. The sky-is-falling group was wrong. The sky did not fall. It's still up there.
The -- missile defense, we believe, is a necessary component of our new strategic approach, but it's not the only one. With a growing number of allies, the President has also pushed forward with the Proliferation Security Initiative, forming a new international coalition to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction and related materials.
These efforts are the linchpin of a comprehensive strategy to keep the world's most dangerous weapons away from rogue states and terrorist networks.
I'm optimistic about the future of this program, because I guess I've been alive long enough to see firsthand how far we've come.
Twenty years ago the idea that nations could defend themselves against ballistic missiles -- launched by accident or design -- was a dream. Today that dream is coming true. Success here demonstrates that we can and will be prepared to confront new threats to our security.
So for all that you have done to make that possible, I offer my full appreciation.
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