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National Missile Defense

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National Missile Defense

September 1, 2000

The Clinton Administration is committed to the development of a limited National Missile Defense (NMD) system designed to protect all 50 states from the emerging ballistic missile threat from nations that threaten international peace and security. In the event of an attack, American satellites would detect the launch of missiles; radar would track the enemy warheads; and highly accurate, high-speed ground-based interceptors would destroy missiles before they reach targets in the United States.


President Clinton announced today that the NMD program is sufficiently promising and affordable to justify continued development and testing, but that there is not sufficient information about the technical and operational effectiveness of the entire NMD system to move forward with deployment.

In making this decision, the President considered the threat, the cost, technical feasibility and the impact overall on our national security of proceeding with NMD. He considered a thorough technical review by the Department of Defense as well as the advice of his top national security advisors.

The Pentagon has made progress on developing a system that can address the emerging missile threat. But we do not have sufficient information to conclude that it can work reliably under realistic conditions. Critical elements of the program, such as the booster rocket for the missile interceptor, have not been tested; and there are questions to be resolved about the ability of the system to deal with countermeasures. The President made clear we should not move forward until we have further confidence that the system will work and until we have made every reasonable diplomatic effort to minimize the costs.

The Pentagon will continue the development and testing of the NMD system. That effort is still at an early stage: three of the nineteen planned intercept tests have been held so far. Additional ground tests and simulations will also take place.

The development of our NMD is part of the Administration's comprehensive national security strategy to prevent potential adversaries from threatening the United States with such weapons and acquiring the weapons in the first place.

Arms control agreements with Russia are an important part of this strategy because they ensure stability and predictability between the United States and Russia, promote the dismantling of nuclear weapons, and help complete the transition from confrontation to cooperation with Russia. The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 limits anti-missile defenses according to a simple principle: neither side should deploy defenses that would undermine the other's nuclear deterrent, and thus tempt the other to strike first in a crisis or take countermeasures that would make both our countries less secure.

This announcement will provide additional time to pursue with Russia the goal of adapting the ABM treaty to permit the deployment of a limited NMD that would not undermine strategic stability. The United States will also continue to consult with Allies and continue the dialogue with China and other states.

An NMD program that meets the projected threat

Last August, the President decided that the initial NMD architecture would include: 100 ground-based interceptors deployed in Alaska, one ABM radar in Alaska, and five upgraded early warning radars.

This approach is the fastest, most affordable, and most technologically mature approach to fielding an effective NMD against the projected threat. It would protect all 50 states against emerging threats from both North Korea and the Middle East and is optimized against the most immediate and certain threat, North Korea.

On July 23, 1999, President Clinton signed into law H.R. 4, the "National Missile Defense Act of 1999," stating that it is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as technologically possible an effective NMD system. The legislation includes two amendments supported by the Administration: the first making clear that any NMD deployment must be subject to the authorization and appropriations process, and thus that no decision on deployment has been made; the second stating it is the policy of the United States to seek continued negotiated reductions in Russian nuclear forces, putting Congress on record as continuing to support negotiated reductions in strategic nuclear arms, reaffirming the Administration's position that missile defense policy must take into account important arms control and nuclear nonproliferation objectives.

NMD Budget

The Clinton Administration has spent approximately $5.7 billion on NMD, and budgeted an additional $10.4 billion in FY 2001-2005 to support possible deployment of the initial NMD architecture. Our current estimate for developing, procuring and deploying our initial system 100 interceptors, an ABM radar, upgrades to 5 early warning radars, and command and control is around $25 billion (Fiscal Years 91-09). But to put that in perspective, it represents less than 1 percent of the defense budget over the coming six years.

Joint Statement of Principles on Strategic Stability

At the June 4 Moscow summit, Presidents Clinton and Putin signed a Joint Statement of Principles on Strategic Stability. The Principles state that the international community faces a dangerous and growing threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, including missiles and missile technologies, and that there is a need to address these threats, including through consideration of changes to the ABM Treaty. The Principles also record agreement to intensify discussions on both ABM issues and START III.

Joint Statement on Cooperation on Strategic Stability

The United States has made clear to Russia that we are prepared to engage in serious cooperation to address the emerging ballistic missile threat and have identified a number of specific ideas for discussion. At the June 4 Moscow Summit, Presidents Clinton and Putin signed an agreement to establish a Joint Center for exchanging early warning data on missile launches; they also agreed to explore more far-reaching cooperation to address missile threats.

On July 21 in Okinawa, Presidents Clinton and Putin issued a Joint Statement on Cooperation on Strategic Stability, which identifies specific areas and projects for cooperation to control the spread of missiles, missile technology and weapons of mass destruction.

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