May 02 2001


U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-AL), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today commented on national missile defense:

"For decades, the United States has lashed itself to the mast of strategic nuclear vulnerability: the idea that we can only be safe if we are completely vulnerable to nuclear destruction. This policy may - or may not - have made sense in 1972, when the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was signed, at a time when the technologies were relatively primitive and only the Soviet Union threatened us with nuclear missiles. It was on its way out in 1983, when amid an emerging technological revolution, President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative. And it is ludicrous in 2001, in an era when hostile nations from North Korea to Iran and Iraq threaten or seek to threaten the United States with intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"As the President said in his speech, `no treaty that prevents us from addressing today's threats . . . is in our interest - or in the interest of world peace.'

"Driven by these stubborn facts - facts many did their best to ignore or explain away - the previous administration belatedly and reluctantly went through the motions of laying the groundwork for a national missile defense system. Overseas, there are countries that object to our defending ourselves. Some of these countries have their own reasons to wish us undefended; some of them have contributed to the threat by their own irresponsible sales of missile and other weapons technologies to rogue states.

"Some of our friends and allies question the impact on alliances and strategic stability. As the President made clear, we will consult closely with them as we proceed.

"The important thing is that today, President Bush has broken the cycle of self-deception and strategic double-talk in which we have been trapped for eight years, and placed the United States squarely on the path to deploying a national missile defense.

"There is no time to lose. As Mr. Rumsfeld cautioned us three years ago, we may have `little or no warning' that a hostile nation is about to deploy ICBM's that will be targeted on the United States.

"Therefore I strongly urge the administration to give initial priority to those already established technologies that can be deployed most rapidly. I commend the President for his statesmanship, and look forward to working closely with the administration to make his vision a reality."