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KEITH B. PAYNE versusJOSEPH CIRINCIONE

Emerging ballistic missile powers could acquire an ICBM capability within about five years of a decision to do so

KEITH B. PAYNE

likely to obtain ballistic missiles for future attacks. When the missile- defence debate resumes, there must be a renewed appreciation that every dollar we spend on the least likely threat of ballistic missiles is a dollar not spent on the most likely threat: terrorism.”

The bills for the new war on terror- ism are mounting. The postal service needs billions just to decontaminate its mail facilities; bioterrorism defence will cost tens of billions; air- port security billions more; and the military campaign alone will already receive half of the $40 billion emer- gency appropriations Congress approved in September. Missile defence will now have to compete with new defence demands, most of which the American people see as addressing more urgent threats. These are not hypothetical “what ifs” but real, already-happened-and- could-happen-again threats.

Homeland defence means increas- ing security for critical infrastructure including dams, nuclear reactors, chemical plants, bridges, tunnels and stadiums. It means not just stockpil- ing vaccines, as the president wants, but pouring money into emergency rooms and clinics for more staff, training and detection equipment, as the Congress wants. It has already meant that the United States is fight- ing a two-front war — in Afghanistan and in the airports and mailrooms of America. Missile defence is irrele- vant to both wars. This is a whole new game.

Yours, Joseph

Dear Joseph,

You dispute my contention that there exists a political consensus for priority spending on missile defence, citing statements from Representative John Spratt and Senator Carl Levin. Selective quota- tion usually presents a limited pic- ture. But if that is the evidence you appreciate, I should cite the follow- ing comments from the same Congressional leaders.

In contrast to your suggestion that there is no “demonstrable” long- range missile threat, Representative Spratt has stated: “I think there is a threat of an accidental, unauthorised, or rogue missile attack, existing and emerging, and I think it would be wise to have a missile-defence sys- tem to meet that threat.” And, despite your contention that there is general support only for short-range defences, Representative Spratt speaks in favour of missile defence: “I have long thought that a ground- based defence, deployed at two sites, is our best first step.”

Senator Levin has similarly stated: “I share the goal of providing the American people with effective pro- tection against the emerging long- range missile threat from rogue states.” And, to add weight to my point, note that Senator Joseph Lieberman, the recent Democratic candidate for vice president, has stat- ed: “We need the national missile defence. We face a real and growing threat that cannot be countered by our conventional forces and which will not be deterred by the threat of retaliation.”

Further, you claim that the 11 September terrorist attacks moved the political climate away from sup- port for missile defence. The most recent and definitive proof to the contrary is the actual legislative record. The House Armed Services

28 NATO review

Committee report, issued just before 11 September, stated: “The commit- tee endorses the President’s approach to ballistic missile defence, and is encouraged that the proposed mis- sile-defence programme includes plans for a layered defence system and realistic testing, and explores a full range of technologies. As such, the committee endorses the Administration’s missile-defence programme, with modest adjust- ments, and recommends $8.2 billion, $2.9 billion more than the fiscal year 2001 level, for the continued devel- opment of ballistic missile defences.” On 25 September 2001 the full House of Representatives ultimately passed, by the overwhelming vote of 398 to 17, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2002. It would provide $7.9 billion for missile defence, over $2.5 billion more than the 2001 level, and almost $1 billion more than the 2002 budget request. The ultimate budget figures for mis- sile defence will obviously depend on the outcome of the ongoing Senate-House conference, and the Senate has proposed lower funding levels. At this point, however, it is clear that the level of spending to be made available for missile defence will be increased significantly over 2001.

The consensus I described has held, and for good reason. 11 September did not fracture the public or political consensus behind mis- sile-defence spending. Instead, it demonstrated just how arrogant and foolish is the “they-wouldn’t-dare- strike-us” attitude and, therefore, how serious is the emerging ballistic- missile threat. The United States need not abandon missile defence to fund other programmes. This is not the either/or choice you would like to pose. As the emerging missile- defence budget and recent $40 bil- lion emergency anti-terrorism appro- priation show, the United States will fund defensive capabilities against a

Winter 2001/2002

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