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DoD Looks to End 'Permanent Vulnerability' to Missiles

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2001 – They are a threat and there's no good defense against them.

The absence of a credible ballistic missile defense leaves the United States open to blackmail, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said during an Aug. 6 American Forces Information Service interview.

"The president has said that we want to be able to deter people from thinking that ballistic missiles are the weapon of choice to intimidate the United States and its friends and allies and to kill or threaten to kill our deployed forces or the United States," he said.

Currently, 28 countries have ballistic missiles with various ranges, configurations, warheads and launching protocols, he said.

"It is not written how these things will evolve," Rumsfeld continued. "But it is written that if you establish a policy of permanent vulnerability, you can be reasonably certain that someone will take advantage of it."

All combatant commanders agree that some form of missile defense is crucial to them. They remember the Iraqi Scud missile attack that killed 28 Americans and wounded hundreds in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, during the 1991 Gulf War.

The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization has turned the Patriot Advanced Capability 3 system over to the Army for procurement. This should provide more advanced missile defense, DoD officials said.

"We have forces in Europe, we have them in the Gulf, we have them in Asia," Rumsfeld said. "We also have friends and allies. It's important that we be able as a country to persuade the rest of the world that it's not in their interest to have ballistic missiles and to try to threaten their use against us and to try to intimidate us because they have those weapons.

"At the present time we don't have much of a defense against those weapons."

Rumsfeld said President Bush is pushing for this capability. DoD is engaging in a vigorous research, development and testing program to find the right mixes of defenses. The recent test of an exoatmospheric kill vehicle over the Pacific demonstrated U.S. ability to knock down a ballistic missile in mid-course. But this does not mean the country is close to fielding anything that could be called a national missile defense, he said.

The Bush administration has talked about layered defense, but the secretary has been a bit more cautious about what will ultimately be fielded.

"I don't know what will evolve because we're in a research and development and testing mode," he said. The research effort will look at knocking down missiles in the boost phase, the mid-course phase and the terminal phase.

He said a final product could be land-based, sea-based, air-based or a combination of all three. Whatever missile defense technology is ultimately fielded, it won't arrive full-blown, he noted.

"It will evolve over time as was the case with airplanes," Rumsfeld said. We didn't go from the Wright Brothers straight to F-15s and B-2s, he remarked. "There have been series of iterations."

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