Assistant Secretary Clarke Interview with WKZO-AM, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Friday, August 17, 2001
(Interview with Rick Shields, WKZO-AM, Kalamazoo, Mich.)
Shields: The first question involves obviously the missile defense system and how it's different from previous systems used by the United States.
Clarke: Well, one way in which it's very different is we currently don't have a system. There's no doubt, it's just a real fact, that the threat of attack from weapons of mass destruction, the means of delivery of ballistic missiles is growing, it's very real. The number of states, number of rogue states that have them is growing. It's a very real threat to the United States. Unfortunately, we don't have a missile defense system.
It's somewhat ironic that you asked the question the way you did. CBS and New York Times did a poll a few months ago. About 65 percent of the American people think we have a missile defense system. It sort of speaks to the common sense of it. But we don't have a missile defense system, and we need one.
Shields: Specifically this is designed to defend against what?
Clarke: Specifically this is designed to protect us, the limited system, it's intended to be a limited system, to protect us from a handful of missiles from the rogue states like Iraq, like North Korea, that are increasingly developing weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them.
Again, memories are short, but about ten years ago in the Persian Gulf War in Dhahran, there were 28 Americans that were killed by an incoming Scud -- about 13 of them from one town in Greensburg, PA. And despite that, ten years later we still haven't developed the means to protect us from that sort of attack.
Shields: This plan came into existence when? Is it still being tested? And if so, how are those tests going?
Clarke: What it is right now is a very robust research and development program. We're testing a variety of technologies. We're testing a variety of ways to intercept missiles. We look at both the boost phase, the mid-course phase, and the terminal phase of missiles. If you go after it at the different phases there's a greater likelihood of actually hitting it. It's a very robust R&D program. We have some 20 tests between now and 2006. And every time we have a test, just like in any R&D program, we learn things and that's what's important.
Shields: Critics are saying that the president's decision to go ahead with this system violated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. I understand that treaty is now dead. Did it violate that treaty from 30 years ago?
Clarke: Well, you're right. It's a treaty of 30 years ago. It's a treaty we entered into with the Soviet Union which no longer exists. It's a treaty that was based on a very hostile relationship between two different nations. The Soviet Union doesn't exist. We do not have a hostile relationship with Russia.
But to your question, we have not violated the ABM Treaty. We don't intend to.
What we're trying to do right now, as President Bush and the secretary of Defense have spoken to, is move beyond the ABM Treaty to a new relationship with Russia that covers a much broader range of issues. It covers political, economic and security matters. But we have not violated the ABM and don't intend to. We're working hard now, we've got ongoing consultations with the Russians. We just got back from Moscow the other day. And if we can work with the Russians to move beyond the ABM Treaty, we will. If we just can't find an arrangement then we will move beyond the ABM Treaty ourselves.
Shields: The president has spoken with Vladimir Putin twice I believe on that, and you say you just have gotten back from Moscow, or at least officials in your department.
Clarke: Actually, the secretary of Defense was just there a few days ago.
Shields: Oh, I see.
What is the latest take on how Putin and his administration are looking at this?
Clarke: Well the latest take is, it's very hard work. The secretary was talking about this just yesterday. We had a hostile relationship with the Soviet Union for 50 years. We've had about ten years with the new Russian Federation, and we've made enormous progress over the last several years. You look at what used to be between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, that no longer exists. We've made enormous progress, but this is hard work. We're charting new territory here.
So every time we have these consultations, whether it's between Putin and President Bush or the secretary of Defense and his counterpart, Minister Ivanov, it's a good thing because you learn more about each other's perspectives.
So we are having good consultations and it's going to take some time.
Shields: There was also some who said it would possibly start a new arms race in Asia. Of course Putin has been to Beijing and all. Is that still very much a concern of the Chinese as expressed to Washington?
Clarke: I can't speak for the Chinese, but what we're talking about is very much a defensive system. The Russians and the Chinese of course should be talking to one another. They share a very long border and a very long history.
But again, what we're talking about is trying to defend ourselves against a limited number of missiles. That is very defensive. There is nothing threatening about it.
I might point out, it's somewhat ironic, the concern some people like to raise or concerns they like to raise on behalf of say Russia, Moscow has a missile defense system. Now why should they be able to have a missile defense system to protect themselves and their people, and we can't?
It is no secret that Russia, unfortunately, still engages in some proliferation that helps places like China build up their weapon systems.
So they can be provocative, they can have a missile defense system, but for some reason they express these concerns and people express concerns on their behalf that we shouldn't have one. That just doesn't seem quite right.
Shields: Again on that system, L.A. Times says it isn't reliable. Is that true?
Clarke: Well, like I said, we've got a very robust R&D program. That takes a lot of testing. You make progress, you learn from your successes, you learn from your failures. You look at some of the most successful technology programs that we have today, whether it's the Polaris program or the Corona program. There were many, many failures. The Corona satellite produced the first overhead reconnaissance satellites. It had 11 straight test failures before it went on. One that everyone is familiar with, if the Wright brothers had stopped after the first three tries we wouldn't be flying in airplanes today. That is the nature of R&D programs. You make some progress, you move forward, you learn things from your mistakes, but you keep moving forward.
Shields: In terms of expense of the whole project, what is that going to be and who's going to pay for it?
Clarke: Right now the amount of money we have budgeted for the missile defense program is about $8 billion, which is a small, small fraction, about two, two and a half percent of the entire DoD budget. If you put that in context. If you put it in the context of we have an obligation and responsibility to protect the American people against lots of different threats. Last year we spent about $11 billion on counter-terrorism efforts. We spent about, a little over $9 billion proposed for building ships. Those sorts of things puts it in the appropriate context. It is a real and growing threat. It is absolutely responsible that we try to develop a program to protect us against that threat. It is a fraction of the overall DoD budget.
Shields: Are we still in the very early research phase of the project? About how far along would you say in the process that is?
Clarke: I think you'd need an engineer to characterize that one for you. And because they're testing so many different aspects of the program, obviously it's a very complex system. When you're talking about a layered defense, when you're talking about trying to find architecture systems that can help you go after the incoming missiles from the land, from the sea, from the air.
I just leave it at saying it's a very robust program and we're continuing to move forward.
Shields: Okay. And then just kind of to wrap it up so I understand here. You did mention incoming missiles from the sea as well as the land.
Clarke: We're trying to intercept them from different places.
Clarke: So it's a layered system in a couple of ways. One, trying to intercept the missiles at its various stage -- at the boost phase, at the mid-course phase, at the terminal phase; and using perhaps, it depends on how the R&D program goes, a variety of bases from which you try to intercept those. So perhaps from land, from sea, etc.
Shields: I was thinking of the old way of thinking there, the former Soviet Union, if they were fired from Central Asia or the Kamchatka Peninsula, then they would, that had been the thinking there. But this would also be designed for a submarine launch, is that correct?
Clarke: Uh huh.
Shields: And the multiple, what is it, reentry to MIRVs?
Shields: When do they separate? At what stage? Is it at the apogee, at the peak of their launch cycle there? Or is that on incoming so they could maybe hit that before they separated?
Clarke: As far as I can go on the technology of the MIRVs, all I know is that with the multiple warheads each can be programmed at different times and for different directions.
Shields: And this is an idea, it's not like a direct hit, but even a nearby explosion, detonation, would also take out the missiles, is that correct?
Clarke: Different warheads can be used differently, that is correct.
Shields: Okay, those are some questions I had.
Is there anything else obvious that I missed that would be of interest to our listeners here in Kalamazoo?
Clarke: I don't think so. I just think your first question was very telling. Most people do think that we have a system to protect us from these sorts of attacks, from this threat that is real and is growing, and I think there's an awful lot of common sense in their thinking.
Shields: All right. Ms. Secretary I thank you very much for your call and the information, and let me double-check this here at the end. The transmission was fine on that, the taping was fine, and we do very much appreciate it.
Clarke: Great, thanks Rick.