United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Release

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

News Release


Release No: 241-96
April 26, 1996

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by William J. Perry Secretary of Defense - George Washington University

Thursday, April 25, 1996

This past January, I did something that previous Secretaries of Defense could only dream of doing. I stood on a windswept field at the Pervomaysk nuclearmissile facility in Ukraine with the Russian and Ukrainian Ministers ofDefense. The three of us joined together to turn a special launch control keythat, instead of launching a missile, ignited explosives that blew up the silo.The Pervomaysk missile field was once the crown jewel of the Soviet nuclearmissile arsenal. It had 80 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and 700 nuclearwarheads, all aimed at targets in the United States. By this June, every lastmissile and warhead will be gone from Pervomaysk -- and that missile field willbe converted to a wheat field.

My generation spent nearly all of our adult lives with the threat of nuclearholocaust hanging over our heads like a dark cloud, threatening the extinctionof all mankind. The most fearsome weapon in the nuclear arsenal was theintercontinental ballistic missile. For decades, both the U.S. and the SovietUnion sought to build ICBMs that were bigger, more powerful, more accurate andmore survivable -- each believing at various times that they faced a "missilegap." With the end of the Cold War, the missile race has ended, and all theworld breathes easier. We are now pursuing a strategy with Russia based not oncompetition and build-up of weapons, but on cooperation andbuild-down.

But while the Cold War is over, the missile threat has not gone away. Indeed,another missile threat is emerging. It is the threat of missile technology inthe hands of rogue nations hostile to the United States or our allies. Thereal danger is that those missiles can be coupled with nuclear, biological orchemical weapons, and that they will be used to attack our troops in battletheaters, to attack or terrorize our allies, or even in the future to threatenour country.

To protect our nation, our troops and our allies from the threat of missilesof mass destruction today, we maintain three basic lines of defense: Our firstline of defense is to prevent the spread of weapons and missiletechnology through a range of arms control and non-proliferation treaties,export controls and sanctions. Our second line of defense is to deterthe use of these weapons by maintaining strong conventional and nuclear forcesand the willingness to retaliate. But we must also have a third line ofdefense -- a program to deploy systems to defeat the threat by shootingdown missiles of mass destruction.

I want to focus today on that third line of defense -- ballistic missiledefense -- because there is great debate over this issue, and I want to clarifywhat the debate is about -- and what it is not about.

The Defense Department spends almost $3 billion a year to research, developand build systems that can seek out, target and shoot down ballistic missiles.Our ballistic missile defense program starts with a sober and clear-eyed lookat the missile threat, and it responds with a balanced program that emphasizesthe current threat, and stays well ahead of future threats.

So what is the threat? First, there is the here-and-now threat fromshort-range theater ballistic missiles -- SCUD-type missiles. Second, there isan emerging threat from longer-range theater missiles. And third, there is afuture threat that undeterrable rogue states will obtain ICBMs that can reachthe United States. Each threat is different, so our response to each threat isdifferent.

The first threat we are concerned about is that SCUD-type missiles willbe used to attack our troops deployed overseas in battle theaters, or toterrorize our allies. This is not a hypothetical threat -- it is real.Desert Storm was a wake-up call. Saddam Hussein had SCUDs. And he used themagainst our forces. He also used them in a terrorist mode, by firing SCUDs atpopulation centers in Israel, which was not even a participant in the war. Wedo not know what Saddam would have done if his nuclear program had succeeded inproducing nuclear weapons by then. We do know that he had chemical andbiological warheads for the SCUDs, but chose not to use them. Certainly, hehad very strong warning of the retaliation he would suffer if he did usechemical weapons.

Today, about 30 nations have SCUD missiles. Some of these nations alsocurrently have chemical and biological weapons. Defending our troops againstthese theater missiles of mass destruction is a high priority of our militarycommanders. It is a high priority of the President, and it is a high priorityof Congress. Indeed, Congress fully supports our defense program against thisthreat.

We already have theater missile defense systems deployed to a number of hotspots, such as the Middle East and the Korean peninsula. These defensesinclude upgraded Patriot missiles. But this technology is not good enough.Therefore, we have shifted additional funds to building and fielding bettertheater missile defense systems. For the `97 fiscal year, one-third of ouroverall budget for ballistic missile defenses is focused on defenses againstthis here-and-now missile threat. A new generation of more advanced Patriotsand Navy missile defenses will soon be tested, and they are scheduled fordelivery to Army units and Navy ships beginning in 1999. These new systemswill seek and hit incoming missiles with more deadly aim. And they will have amuch more effective kill mechanism that will minimize the dispersal of nuclear,chemical or biological agents on the ground.

But as we improve our defenses against the here-and-now missile threat, wemust also gear up to defend against the second missile threat that isemerging on the horizon. Rogue nations evidently are beginning to develop moreadvanced theater ballistic missiles, which will pose a greater threat to ourtroops and allies than SCUD-type missiles. North Korea, for example, isdeveloping a ballistic missile for its own military and for export markets suchas the Middle East and North Africa. With a range of 1,000 kilometers, thismissile will be able to fly farther than the SCUD. It would allow North Korea,for example, to strike Tokyo. It would also allow Libya to strike our alliesin Europe. By the time these longer-range theater ballistic missiles hit theglobal market, more nations may have biological and chemical weapons -- andsome may have nuclear weapons. This threat is not here and now, but it isemerging, and we view it seriously.

Our response to this emerging threat is to develop the next generation oftheater ballistic missile defenses. These systems will be able to protectareas over 10 times larger than the theater missile defenses we are buildingnow, allowing us to protect an entire Army division or a metropolitan area.

As we develop these systems, however, there are two sets of decisions we aregoing to need to grapple with. The first decision involves priorities -- howmuch and how fast. Some in Congress want us to speed up and spend more ondefenses against future missile threats. In a world where financial prioritiesmust be set, we believe the highest priority should be given to developing anddeploying defenses against the missile threat that is here today.

The second set of decisions we need to grapple with as we develop broadertheater missile defenses involves the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between theUnited States and Russia. The ABM Treaty prohibits each of us from buildinganti-ballistic missile systems to shield our nations from each other's nucleararsenals. Through the years, this treaty has maintained stability bydiscouraging a race to build larger and better nuclear arsenals to overcomeeach other's defenses. In fact the treaty has encouraged reductions inour nuclear arsenals.

The ABM treaty does not prohibit America and Russia from buildingdefenses to shield our troops from theater missiles. But the language of thetreaty is not explicit about what is permitted. Therefore, we areworking closely with Russia on an agreement to more clearly differentiatebetween theater missile defenses and those missile defenses prohibited by theABM treaty.

But our bottom line is, we will not give up the right to defend ourtroops or our allies from attack by theater ballistic missiles.

As we field better systems to protect our troops and allies against theaterballistic missile attack, we must also prepare to protect our nation from thethird missile threat. It is the prospect that rogue states will someday obtain strategic ballistic missiles -- ICBMs -- that can reach our shores.To defend our nation against this potential threat, we need to be ready todeploy a national missile defense. Today, we do not need a nationalmissile defense system, because our nation is not now threatened by missiles ofmass destruction. No rogue nation has ICBMs.

Only the established nuclear powers have ICBMs. And if these powers shouldever pose a threat, our ability to retaliate with an overwhelmingnuclear response will serve as a deterrent. Deterrence has protected us fromthe established nuclear arsenals for decades, and it will continue to protectus.

But while the United States is safe today from strategic missile attack, thispicture could change in two ways. First, if rogue nations were to developtheir own ICBMs. According to the U.S. intelligence community, this threat ismore than a decade away. However, it could come sooner if rogue nations gethelp from other nations in developing ICBMs. No nation seems so inclined, andwe will continue to discourage such help -- but we must be alert to thispossibility. The second scenario is if an unauthorized or accidental launch ofan ICBM occurs in Russia or China. Our intelligence considers this probabilityremote, and we are working to make it more remote through arms control anddiplomacy.

Because of these two scenarios, we have a hedge strategy: to develop anational missile defense system that we could deploy if an ICBM threat to ourcountry were to appear on the horizon. This national missile defensesystem under development would not be comparable to the system that wasunder development in the Strategic Defense Initiative -- that is, it would notbe capable of defending against thousands of warheads being launched at theUnited States. On the other hand, our system would be quite capable ofdefending against the much smaller and relatively unsophisticated ICBM threatthat a rogue nation or a terrorist could mount any time in the foreseeablefuture. And it would be capable of shooting down an unauthorized oraccidentally launched missile.

The system we are developing would include sensors in space to identify andtrack incoming missiles, and interceptor missiles and radars on the ground.Our plan is to develop elements of this system over the next three years.Then, at that point, if we were to see a rogue threat emerging, we couldconstruct this system and have it on site in another three years -- that is, bythe year 2003. If, as we expect, we see no such threat emerging, we willcontinue developing and improving the technologies, all the while retaining thecapability to have the system up and running within three years of a decisionto deploy. That way, we will be ready and able to field the most advancedsystem possible to counter missile threats to our nation as fast as they canemerge.

How we defend the nation from ballistic missiles was the subject of greatdebate during the Cold War. The debate has begun again today. Critics of ourprogram in Congress are supporting a bill sponsored by Senate Majority LeaderDole and House Speaker Gingrich. The Dole-Gingrich bill would replace ournational missile defense plan with a plan of its own.

In many critical areas, our two plans see eye-to-eye. Both recognize the needto be capable of defending our nation against a potential rogue missile threat.And both would make it possible to deploy a system by 2003. The criticaldifference between our plans is timing.

The Dole-Gingrich bill says we must choose a system now and begin deploying itin three years, independent of how our threat assessment evolves. Our plansays, let's develop a system, assess the threat in three years, and make ourdeployment decision accordingly. Our choice between these two plans could bequite significant. Everyone should know what is at stake in the choice.

The first issue at stake is the chance to further reduce Cold War nucleararsenals. Committing now to deploy a national missile defense system, ascalled for in the Dole-Gingrich bill, would almost certainly put at riskRussia's full implementation of the START I treaty, and ratification andimplementation of the START II treaty. In other words, the Dole-Gingrich billcould jeopardize the elimination of an additional 3200 former Soviet nuclearwarheads. No ballistic missile defense offers our country better protectionthan the elimination of 3200 nuclear warheads. In this case, the choice isbetween defending against a threat that does not exist, versus eliminating athreat that does exist.

Additionally, committing right now to deploy a system could require the UnitedStates to amend or abrogate the ABM Treaty with Russia. This is unnecessarywithout a real threat on the horizon. Only if and when we decideto deploy a national missile defense would we need to decide whether we needamendments to the ABM Treaty.

The second issue at stake is the effectiveness of the national defense systemwe deploy. Choosing a system now will limit our options to build a bettersystem that is better matched to the threat. In this case, the choice isbetween building an advanced system to defeat an actual threat,versus a less capable system to defeat a hypothetical threat.Think of this problem in terms of buying a personal computer for college. Ifyou ordered your computer as a high school sophomore, it would have beenobsolete by the time you started college, it would lack the capabilities younow need, and would be impossible or prohibitively expensive to upgrade. Onthe other hand, if you ordered your computer just before you started college,you would have gotten the latest technology, and it would more closely matchwhat you actually needed for school. In the world of Pentium computers, wedon't want to be stuck with a 286. In the world of national missile defense,we want the latest technology, closely matched to what we actually need todefend our country.

The choices we make in missile defense have far reaching implications. Ibelieve this Administration has made the right choices to protect us in thepost-Cold War nuclear age. We work to prevent threats from endangeringus. We maintain strong forces, and the strong will to use force, todeter attack. We maintain missile defenses that can defeat amissile attack against our deployed troops; we are focused on getting bettertheater missile defenses into the field as soon as possible. And we have arobust and flexible program to develop a national missile defense against arogue ICBM threat to our nation, if such a threat emerges in the future.Overall, our ballistic missile defense program strikes the right balance, withan emphasis on the threat that is here and now.

Winston Churchill once said about Americans: "The bigger the idea, the morewholeheartedly and obstinately do they throw themselves into making it asuccess. That is an admirable characteristic -- provided the idea is good."As our country throws itself wholeheartedly and obstinately into our ballisticmissile defense program, we have an obligation to our troops, to our allies, toour taxpayers and to our children to make sure that it is the right program.