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Space, Missile Defense Essential To Defense, Rumsfeld Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2003 – Defending America, its overseas military and its allies from ballistic missiles laden with weapons of mass destruction "is now America's highest priority," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld noted today.

In prepared remarks provided by video feed to attendees of an Association of the United States Army-sponsored space and missile defense symposium in El Paso, Texas, Rumsfeld noted that some rogue states that sponsor terrorism "either have or are working hard to acquire nuclear, chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction and the long-range missiles necessary to deliver them."

This means, the defense secretary asserted, "we have truly entered a new age one that may well be the most dangerous America, and the democracies of the world, have ever faced."

The U.S. military is transforming itself, Rumsfeld pointed out, to "think and fight jointly" and to develop needed capabilities to confront 21st-century threats such as global terrorism and WMDs. And, the secretary said, "The importance of space and missile defense in this endeavor cannot be overstated."

The secretary thanked Maj. Gen. Michael A. Vane, commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Center at nearby Fort Bliss, noting that the general's Patriot anti-missile batteries successfully intercepted several enemy-fired ballistic missiles during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The Patriot missile crews also "successfully defended vital concentrations of coalition military equipment and personnel," Rumsfeld said.

Space satellite-linked information networks, Rumsfeld pointed out, can be used to locate enemy forces and increase the accuracy of airdropped munitions.

"Over the past few years we have recognized that space and information are not only enablers, but (also) core war fighting competencies," Rumsfeld said, adding, "That realization is being validated in both Afghanistan and Iraq."

Rumsfeld noted today's U.S. military uses space-based assets for communications, navigation, weather, early warning, surveillance and reconnaissance purposes.

In the global war on terrorism, he continued, Joint Tactical Ground Stations provided around-the-clock warning for U.S. forces, while DoD satellite communications centers provide support for Tomahawk missile launches, and unmanned aerial vehicle reconnaissance missions.

"Thanks to space," Rumsfeld continued, "we were able to send real-time targeting and intel(ligence) information direct to Air Force attack assets."

And, "the importance of space will only increase in the future," Rumfeld emphasized, citing space as "fundamental to modern warfare." Unfettered access to space, he added, is "a vital U.S. national interest."

The Army "is the largest user of space products and services," Rumsfeld pointed out, noting that service is also heavily involved in the nation's new missile defense system.

In fact, Rumsfeld noted, America's first Ground-based Midcourse Missile Defense Brigade that was activated Oct. 16 at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., will be manned by Army active duty and National Guard troops.

And, the secretary continued, Alaska Army National Guard soldiers from Fort Greely will constitute Alaska's Missile Defense Space Battalion that's slated for activation in January.

When missile defense "is no longer a dream, but a reality, the world will be a much safer place for Americans, and for all people who long for peace and freedom," Rumsfeld concluded.

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