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Assistant SecDef Clarke Interview with WTCM-AM, Traverse City, Mich.

Presenters: Victoria Clarke, ASD PA
August 17, 2001 12:00 PM EDT

Friday, August 17, 2001

(Live radio interview with John Dew, WTCM-AM, Traverse City, Mich.)

Dew: On line with us now, direct from Washington, is assistant secretary for Defense, and that's Torie Clarke. Torie, nice to have you on-line with us, and I appreciate you checking in. I understand that you have an update for us. I know you just returned from Europe with President Bush, and I think you have an update for us on the proposed missile defense system.

Clarke: Well actually I just got back from Moscow with the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. President Bush was over in Europe a couple of weeks ago meeting with his counterpart, Mr. Putin. But we were in Moscow for a couple of days to talk about a wide range of issues. As our president has made clear, he wants to work toward a new relationship with Russia that covers a broad range of issues -- economic, political, and security matters.

So Secretary Rumsfeld discussed those with his counterpart, Mr. Ivanov, including our desire to move beyond the ABM, a treaty that we entered into with the Soviet Union about 30 years ago when we had a very hostile relationship. We think it's important to move beyond that.

Dew: With regard to the missile defense system, per se, a lot of people, myself included, really don't know where we are on that and what we have available and so on. Where does that stand?

Clarke: Well, you're in good company. CBS and the New York Times did a poll a couple of months ago asking people about missile defense, and over 60 percent, 64 percent of all Americans believed that we currently have some system in place to protect us from ballistic missiles, to protect us from these sorts of attacks.

The fact of the matter is, we don't. Despite 28 Americans being killed by an incoming missile ten years ago in the Persian Gulf War, we still do not have the ability to protect us from ballistic missiles. That's what we're working on. It is one of the several threats, challenges that we face, and we're trying to work toward a limited system that would protect us from a handful of missiles that might be launched from a rogue state, might be an accidental launch, would threaten us, would threaten our troops stationed abroad, or friends and allies.

Dew: That's incredible. Yes, I had no idea -- I guess I'm with the majority in that I thought we had a defense system. You hear about the tests that have been taken, in fact didn't we have a successful test recently?

Clarke: We had a successful test last month, and I guess we should be more careful about how we describe it. It was an intercept test, but we were testing a variety of things. These are very complex systems. So we're testing a variety of things. It will take a couple of months for all the data to come in, but the preliminary reports on all the major elements were that it was quite successful.

Dew: Is there a proposal that's been enacted now that's going to be considered by Congress with regard to that?

Clarke: Well, what they look at is our budget. We have proposed a little over $8 billion for missile defense, which no two ways about it, $8 billion is a lot of money. And we're trying to be very careful and very judicious about how we spend it.

It is a fraction of the overall Department of Defense budget. It is a little over two percent of our entire budget. And you put it in its appropriate context, where you want to put most things, I think, and it makes sense. We're spending about $11 billion on counter-terrorism, as we should. A lot of people, if you ask people on the street where are these threats going to come from, a lot of people say what about the guy with the bomb in a suitcase?

We're spending about $11 billion on counter-terrorism; we're spending about $9 billion on shipbuilding. So $8 billion is somewhat of a fraction of our entire budget.

Dew: That also would serve to be a strong deterrent toward any kind of aggression by some of the rogue countries, I would assume.

Clarke: Yeah, it's almost a two, a dual approach, if you will. We have a very real obligation to protect ourselves and protect the American people against what is a real and growing threat. The likelihood of a ballistic missile coming from one of the rogue states or an accidental launch.

There also could be a deterrent effect, and I'm glad you asked the question. Again, this is an area where we need to do a better job.

Missile defense is one piece of a broader, deterrent strategy, and part of that strategy is to discourage and dissuade people from getting into these areas, making mischief in these areas, by making them believe it's just not worth the return on investment.

The secretary likes to talk about the fact that you don't see rogue nations, you don't see some of these less friendly countries out there building huge nations. They won't get the return on investment. They will not be able to match us on that front.

So by building a missile defense system we may be able to discourage some from going further down this path.

Dew: If people are certainly interested, and I'm sure a lot of them are, where can they get more information, Torie, and what can they do to get involved in this situation?

Clarke: They can certainly go to our web site which is DefenseLink.

Dew: DefenseLink?

Clarke: DefenseLink, right.

Dew: Is it DefenseLink.org or com?

Clarke: It's DefenseLink.mil [ http://www.defenselink.mil/ ] and you can certainly get more information there. They can call our office, which is (703) 697-5737.

Dew: Okay. I certainly appreciate you joining us on the program this morning and giving us some updates on this very key and critical informational area.

Torie Clarke, the assistant secretary of Defense, we really appreciate you being with us.

Clarke: Thank you very much, John.

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