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It's Not 'National' or 'Theater,' It's Just Missile Defense

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2001 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has stopped differentiating between National Missile Defense and Theater Missile Defense.

Rumsfeld, speaking with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson at a March 8 joint press conference in the Pentagon, said tagging the missile defense effort as either theater or national is "unuseful."

"What's 'national' depends on where you live, and what's 'theater' depends on where you live," he said.

The Bush administration has called for a missile defense system to defend all 50 states. The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization is working on such a system. At the same time, BMDO and the services are working on systems that would intercept ballistic missile attacks on deployed U.S. forces.

"Obviously, if you prevent such an attack against U.S. forces in an area, you also defend the civilian population of the area," a DoD official said. "That might be theater missile defense for American forces, but it's national missile defense for that country."

Rumsfeld said he is interested in negating the threat of rogue states launching missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction at the United States or its allies. "The United States has friends and allies with whom we're linked very tightly to," he said.

Bush administration officials have characterized the launch of such a weapon -- or the threat of a launch -- as the ultimate expression of terror, blackmail and aggression.

"I feel that we are approaching (missile defense) in a rational way by avoiding something that could create significant differentials in vulnerabilities (between the United States and its allies)," Rumsfeld said.

"Over time," he said, "it's every bit as important to us to be able to defend this piece of real estate and our population in this location as it is to defend our deployed forces and to have our allies feel equally secure to the extent that's possible."

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Related Sites:
Joint Media Availability -- Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary General Robertson, March 8, 2001

Related Articles:
Robertson, Rumsfeld Discuss NATO Issues During Meeting

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