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6th Annual Missile Defense Conference
As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England, Washington, D.C., Monday, March 31, 2008

Thanks, Trey (Obering)… it’s good to see you and hard to believe that after so long in one job… you actually can see the light at the end of the tunnel…  Those of us who have been less successful holding down a job and are not yet retirement eligible…  are more than a little envious…. It is a bit unfair that your parole has been signed and… the President has nominated Major General Pat O’Reilly to serve as the next director of the Missile Defense Agency.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Trey’s background, he has been in MDA since July 2003, and has been the director since July 2004.  On December 17, 2002, President George W. Bush directed the Department of Defense to “begin fielding in 2004 a capability to protect our homeland, deployed forces, and our friends and allies from ballistic missile attack.”  Trey, nothing like “on time delivery”!

It’s a pleasure to spend sometime with the collective leadership of the ballistic missile defense community… indeed; it’s become an annual tradition for me.  Normally, it would be a challenge to not re-plow the same ground I covered the year before, but with MDA that’s not a problem.

You make my job very easy.  Each and every year, you set new standards of accomplishment.  Since you received the challenge from President Bush in 2002, you have met the challenge year after year.

*  In 2004, within just three years after being established, MDA was able to field this nation’s first missile defense system to protect the American people against a missile strike from North Korea.  That system has been improved since the first ground-based interceptor was installed.

*  Today, the fielded Ballistic Missile Defense Systems consist of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense element, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, and the Patriot PAC-3 capability.  Tied together by a sophisticated, advanced, Command, Control, Battle Management & Communications network… that spans multiple time zones and combatant commands… this system is a critical contributor to our national security.

*  MDA has shown, in test after test, that missile defense is not only possible, but that it can work very well.  Every test increases the level of confidence in the system and provides valuable lessons and data to guide future development efforts.

*  In 2007 alone, ten out of ten intercept tests were successful.  They included tests of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense element, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.  They involved long- and short-range missile defenses, sea-based and land-based, unitary and separating targets.

Importantly, missile defenses prevent coercion and allow our national leadership a choice beyond offensive actions.  There was a prime example of this in July 2006, when the North Koreans had a hot Taepo Dong 2 on the launch pad, and we had no idea when it was going to be launched and where they intended to fly it.  It was possible that this missile could have reached U.S. territory.

For the first time in our history, the American President actually had the option of activating a defensive system to defend ourselves had it been necessary, rather than strike preemptively (which two former Pentagon officials had advocated at the time).  This real-world event, which so tested our recently deployment ballistic missile defense system, clearly demonstrated that missile defense can be truly stabilizing.

The flexibility, adaptability, and professionalism of MDA have always been a hallmark of this organization.  While it was not an MDA mission, the February 20th satellite intercept is another example where the assets of the missile defense system were available to respond to the challenges of defending the Nation.  This time they ensured that not only American lives, but those of others around the world were not put in danger.

It was not known exactly when the out of control satellite would begin to enter the Earth’s atmosphere and break up, and this meant that we could not predict whether pieces of the satellite, to include a tank filled with highly toxic fuel, would land in populated areas or the ocean.

This mission was an example of why we continue to proclaim that many of the best engineers in the world work in our Defense Department.  The precision achieved in this operation was a staggering success even to those of us who have become so confident about our technology.  Despite the immensity of the challenge, the outcome was predictable.  The Missile Defense Agency has been showing us for years how precise we can be in our missile defense tests. 

It is enough for me to know that we are all safer today than we were just a few short years ago.

You’ve been on a tight, accelerated timeline since President Bush’s challenge in 2002, and thanks to your efforts dramatic progress is being made on a path that was blazed by President Reagan.

Twenty-five years ago, President Reagan envisioned a future without the constant threat of annihilation.  In the face of the threat of nuclear war, he sought to give the United States a defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles and options beyond simply mutual assured destruction.

He believed our safety did not have to rely on retaliation.  He asked what if the nation could destroy ballistic missiles before they reached our soil or that of our allies?  To make his vision a reality, he established the Strategic Defense Initiative and made it a critical component of his national security policy.

It was a proposition that received more than its fair share of criticism… even ridicule… Today, however, the wisdom of his vision is widely accepted.  And, while the security challenges confronting the nation have evolved… the capability he envisioned in 1983 is perhaps even more important than when it first was labeled dismissively as Star Wars.

The simple fact is… this is a dangerous world… a world that is likely to become more dangerous before it becomes less so… and—with our partners around the world—confront a complex security environment distinguished by a variety of challenges:

* Terrorism;
* Ethnic, tribal, and sectarian conflict;
* Potential WMD proliferation;
* Failed and failing states; and,
* Emerging powers whose intentions are unclear.

The challenge remains real, and it remains a challenge for the United States and our allies and friends around the world.

Each of these poses unique challenges and demands discrete capabilities.  Our security, however, relies on a comprehensive approach distinguished by a balanced set of capabilities for the entire spectrum of challenges.  As is often said, the one certainty of the future is its unpredictability.  With that in mind… and history as our guide, we are compelled to prepare for the full range of contingencies.   A robust, versatile missile defense capability is central to our efforts.

The number of states with long-range missile capabilities has grown and the technologies required for weapons of mass destruction continue to proliferate.  The world faces multiple adversaries today… adversaries who may be more concerned about the survival of their regime than they are the welfare of their citizens.

In 1992, President Reagan described the nature of the challenges we confront: “Let us be frank,” he said.  “Evil still stalks the planet.  Its ideology may be nothing more than bloodlust; no program more complex than economic plunder or military aggrandizement.  But it is evil all the same.  And whenever there are forces that would destroy the human spirit and diminish human potential, they must be recognized, and they must be countered.”  A message that needs to be repeated, and heard, today!

Our world changed on 9-11… when our citizens were reminded, as President Reagan had warned us, that “evil still stalks the planet.”

Because evil stalks our planet, President Bush’s vision for missile defense was not limited to solely defending the United States from missile attack.  He recognized early on that friends and allies would also benefit from having missile defenses.

Missile threats are global and proliferating, threatening not just the U.S., but our allies as well.

Without protection from ballistic missiles for the United States, and also for our friends and allies, adversaries could use the threat of missile attack to drive a wedge between us.  We’re determined not to allow that to happen.

To achieve shared capability, an integrated global system is needed to deal with missile threats around the globe.  That in turn requires cooperation with our allies.

For eight years, the nation has engaged in an aggressive and cooperative effort to identify and work with missile defense partners.  While more work is needed in developing this partnership around the globe, these efforts have borne fruit.

Last year, the Japanese naval vessel… Kongo… successfully engaged a target ballistic missile with a sea-based interceptor… and they were the first nation other than the U.S. to do so.  Since then, a co-development program for a new, more capable sea-based interceptor has been started that will enhance the defense of both the U.S. and Japan.  This program is off to a good start, but we must continue to support the program so this new capability can be a tool available to future Administrations… here and in Japan.

NATO has made very good progress on missile defense.  The Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense system will provide protection for deployed Alliance forces.  Efforts are underway with Poland and the Czech Republic to field a radar and interceptors that will extend missile defense coverage protection to friends and allies across Europe.  The biggest remaining challenge is to complete the necessary agreements and to start construction.

The Alliance is poised to welcome our sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.  Hopefully, this will be a first step toward providing all Alliance territory with this protection.  Sharing these capabilities with the Alliance means that U.S. and our Allies’ security will remain tightly linked.

Israel was our first ally to field an operational ballistic missile defense system, the Arrow, which was co-developed and produced with the U.S.  Our next step will be to work with Israel in developing a layered system capable of dealing with shorter-range threats.

Russia has expressed concern about some of our international cooperative efforts.  In response, we have offered Russia a wide ranging proposal to cooperate on missile defense… everything from modeling and simulation—to data-sharing—to joint development of a regional missile defense architecture—all designed to defend the U.S., Europe, and Russia from the growing threat of Iranian ballistic missiles.  An extraordinary series of transparency measures have also been offered to reassure Russia.  Despite some Russian reluctance to sign up to these cooperative missile defense activities, we continue to work toward this goal.

The most important message America can send to the world is our commitment to freedom and liberty for our citizens and for all people, around the globe.  Shared missile defense is one manifestation of that commitment to freedom.

In his second Inaugural, President Reagan said, “Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit.  People worldwide hunger for the right of self-determination.”  It was that same hunger by our founding fathers over 230 years ago that provided the foundation for the way of life we so enjoy today.

The power of freedom… the power that brought down the Wall in Berlin in 1989… the power that brought millions to the voting booths in Iraq and Afghanistan… is still the most powerful tool in our national arsenal. 

As we deliver this message of freedom, we need as a nation to remember people in embattled communities around the world listen to the words used on our national stage – and they watch our national actions – and choose whether and how to act – and this could be more important than anything else in tipping the scales.

As I said earlier… we face many challenges.  And, although the greatest short-term threat to the United States may be a terrorist attack... the greatest long-term threats are (1) failing to acknowledge the complexity of the security environment and the challenges confronting the nation… and (2) failing to adapt to these ever-changing conditions… and (3) failing to harness the requisite political will to succeed.

As the country struggles with the demands of war… and tally the great costs associated with that struggle and debate the path to be pursued, President Reagan’s words, again, come to mind; he said, “History will ask and our answer will determine the fate of freedom for a thousand years.  Did a nation born of hope lose hope?  Did a people forged by courage… find courage wanting?  Did a generation steeled by hard war and a harsh peace… forsake honor at the moment of great climatic struggle for the human spirit?”  He was speaking of another time… another adversary… another set of challenges, but the power of his words still resonates… and still energizes our efforts to defend our nation, and the nations of our friends and allies.

MDA has demonstrated that President Reagan’s vision of ending the constant threat of ballistic missiles was not just a dream, but an achievable reality.  The defense technology President Reagan believed could be achieved has been proven successful.

There are still considerable challenges ahead of us.  There are signs that the ballistic missile capabilities are spreading… and growing in sophistication.  However, as the ballistic missile defense system expands, its testing continues, and more of our friends and allies choose to join us in our efforts.  Our nation and the world are safer and freedom is more secure.
In the aftermath of 9-11, President Bush said, “We will not falter, we will not tire, and we will not fail.”  Thank you for not tiring, not faltering, and staying the course on missile defense.  With your dedication, we will not fail.  God bless all of you and especially those who stand the watch for freedom.