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U.S. Cannot Ignore Ballistic Missile Threat

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2002 – The United States cannot afford to ignore the threat posed by ballistic missiles, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said during a speech to the Frontiers of Freedom Institute here Oct. 24.

Wolfowitz said that, in the aftermath the Sept. 11 attacks, some people have questioned spending on missile defense. They maintain the United States should expend funds on combating more obvious "low-tech" terrorist threats.

"But the reality is that we do not have the luxury of choosing to defend against only one threat to the exclusion of others," he said. "The horrific events of last year demonstrate the need to deal with the full range of threats that we face."

He said the United States must prepare for all these threats in a balanced way. The country must prepare for everything from "terrorism to the use of weapons of mass destruction by states and nonstate actors, to ballistic and cruise missile attacks."

Wolfowitz said the Missile Defense Agency is making great strides in missile defense. It's proven, for example, that "hit-to-kill" technology works. "We can hit a bullet with a bullet," the deputy said.

DoD's goal is multilayered defenses that can take out missiles from launch to terminal re-entry phase. Programs in each layer are moving forward. He said even more progress is being made now because of the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty.

"We are now in a much improved position to develop, test and evaluate ground-, air-, sea- and space-based technologies and basing modes for the deployment of effective layered defenses," Wolfowitz said. "We are no longer bound by the territorial defense restrictions of the ABM Treaty, and we can develop and deploy a ballistic missile defense system capable of protecting all 50 states."

One concrete advance was on June 14. The Missile Defense Agency began building ABM interceptor silos at the missile defense test bed at Fort Greely, Alaska. Other test bed elements will be built starting early next year.

The agency also has been freed of restrictions on boost- phase defenses and given the latitude to use ship-based radars in missile defense systems. As the agency's research continues, some capabilities might be used to defend the United States, allies and coalition partners.

Wolfowitz said these "emergency capabilities" would begin to enter the country's defenses in 2004. In the timeframe, ground-based interceptors in Alaska will start to be available. Sea-based mid-course interceptors on one or two Aegis ships will be undergoing testing, and the airborne laser prototype might also be ready to press into emergency service.

The Patriot Advanced Capability 3 missile, or PAC-3, will continue to be the heart of short-range terminal phase defenses, Wolfowitz said. "Indeed, we are looking at ways to accelerate the production of PAC-3 out of concern for near-term vulnerabilities," he said.

Wolfowitz was optimistic about the missile defense prospects. "To those who say that the threat is still a remote one far in a distant and uncertain future, the fact is that the short-range threat is here with us today even as we worry about the dangers of a possible conflict in the Persian Gulf or on the Korean Peninsula," he said.

"The longer-range threat may still be a few years away," he said. "Thanks to the historic change that the president was able to achieve (in withdrawing from the ABM Treaty), we may now be in a position to be able to respond before that threat emerges."

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