Tentative dates have been set for votes on the missile defense bills we wrote about in a previous alert. Please contact your Senators and Representatives to urge them to oppose these bills if you have not done so already.

*The Senate is expected to vote on the Cochran-Inouye bill as early as late today (Thursday, March 11), but probably in the next few days.

*The House is currently scheduled to vote on the Weldon-Spratt bill next Thursday, March 18.

We have included below is the information we sent you previously about the bills.

Thanks for your help and involvement! Please let us know if you have contacted your representatives.

Oppose National Missile Defense Deployment

ACTION: Contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to oppose bills endorsing National Missile Defense deployment. Votes are expected soon in both houses, probably during the first week of March. Congressional offices can be reached through the switchboard at 202-225-3121.

LEGISLATIVE SITUATION: SENATE: On February 10, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 12 to 7 for the Cochran-Inouye bill (S.257) endorsing National Missile Defense deployment as soon as technologically possible. The Cochran-Inouye bill--the National Missile Defense Act of 1999--is identical to the one that the Senate turned back twice in 1998 by identical 59 to 41 margins (60 votes were needed to bring up the measure).

Key undecided Senators: Bayh (Indiana), Edwards (NC), Feinstein (California), Graham (Florida), Kohl (Wisconsin) Landrieu (Louisiana), Lieberman (Connecticut), Chafee (Rhode Island) Jeffords (Vermont)

HOUSE: Reps. Weldon (R-PA) and Spratt (D-SC) have introduced H.R. 4 with about 60 sponsors from both parties stating "That it is the policy of the United States to deploy a national missile defense system." The measure was introduced in 1998, but never voted on.

Swing list: There is no House swing list, but all Members should hear from you in opposition to the measure.

BACKGROUND: While the Clinton Administration has not yet endorsed National Missile Defense deployment, it is moving closer in that direction. In early February, Defense Secretary Cohen added $6.6 billion to the Pentagon's 6-year budget plan, bringing spending on National Missile Defense over that period of time to $10.5 billion (there is significantly more spending for shorter- range missile defense systems as well). Cohen promised a deployment decision as early as June 2000.

Nevertheless, the administration has announced that it opposes the Cochran bill because it ignores other important deployment criteria--such as cost and the effect on relations with Russia--and will veto it if necessary.

Almost all Republicans have endorsed National Missile Defense as an article of faith.

Call today! And please send us a message telling us who you have contacted.

Below are talking points for the Cochran bill. The issues raised by the Weldon-Spratt bill are nearly identical.


The Cochran-Inouye Missile Defense Bill
A Simplistic Approach to Security Planning

The Cochran-Inouye Bill (the National Missile Defense Act of 1999) states that "It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate)." Last May and September, this bill was defeated in cloture votes by 59 to 41.

* The Cochran-Inouye bill is unnecessary. The bill will not bring about earlier deployment of a national missile defense. The United States is already proceeding as fast as it can with development and testing. The administration has now dedicated $10.5 billion to permit deployment of a national missile defense by 2005 or sooner, if possible. The administration will make a deployment decision next summer, after key systems tests have been conducted.

* The Cochran-Inouye bill oversimplifies the missile defense equation. The bill would require the United States to deploy a national missile defense as soon as is technologically possible, regardless of its effectiveness, expense, and impact on the US-Russian nuclear arms reduction process. These are important considerations that must be factored into any deployment decision.

* The Cochran-Inouye bill mandates deployment of a defense regardless of the security costs. The bill would require deployment even if the net security costs outweigh the security benefits, as appears to be the case. Russia has made it clear that US deployment of national missile defenses would derail Russian nuclear reductions under the START agreements. Perversely, the bill would thus block those steps that would be most effective in reducing the missile threat to the United States--very deep reductions in Russia's nuclear arsenal. Moreover, US deployment could actually increase the chance of accidental or unauthorized attacks by inducing Russia to rely more on launch- on-warning of its nuclear forces to preserve its deterrent.

In addition, China, whose arsenal currently includes only some two dozen long-range missiles, has said it would seek to upgrade its nuclear arsenal in the face of US defenses.

* The Cochran-Inouye bill mandates deployment of a defense regardless of its effectiveness. The bill says nothing about the performance requirements of the system to be deployed, and opens the door to deployment of a system that may be "technologically" ready against well-behaved test missiles but that could not intercept real-world missiles.

* The Cochran-Inouye bill mandates deployment of a defense that is not even designed to protect against most types of missile threats. A national missile defense is completely unable to address several of the missile threats that would be most likely to emerge from hostile nations. For example, short-range missiles--which are much easier to build than long-range missiles--launched from off-shore boats would land so quickly that the defense would have no time to intercept them. A national missile defense is also not designed to protect against missiles carrying chemical or biological weapons, which are relatively cheap and easy to obtain. Each warhead could be divided into hundreds of simple bomblets to disperse the chemical or biological agents. This many targets would simply overwhelm a US national missile defense, which will start with 20 interceptors and maybe build up to 200.

* The Cochran-Inouye bill mandates deployment of a defense that cannot work against real-world missile threats. The one threat the system is designed against is a long-range missile carrying a single warhead--perhaps a nuclear weapon. But we have to assume that a nation capable of launching a long-range missile at US territory is also capable of the much simpler task of confusing or evading the defense and that, having acquired missiles, it would be motivated to do so. As the old adage goes, "occasionally it is necessary to take the enemy into account." One relatively simple approach would be to hide the incoming warhead in a mylar balloon, and then release numerous identical balloons along with it. The defense would be unable to find the real warhead, and would run out of interceptors by trying to shoot at all the balloons.

Despite decades of research, dealing with such countermeasures remains the key unsolved--and likely unsolvable--problem facing missile defenses.

* The Cochran-Inouye bill mandates deployment regardless of the real nature of the emerging threat to the United States. States seeking to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction have at their disposal more effective ways of delivery-- namely, by terrorist-type attacks such as truck-bombs, suitcase- bombs or weapons brought into a harbor by ship. Moreover, while launching a long-range missile makes it clear who the attacker is, using these other means of covert delivery can help avoid retaliation. It makes no sense to mandate deployment of a system to shoot down missiles when the real emerging threat is likely to be from other means of delivery, especially if deployment would block deep cuts in Russian nuclear weapons.

* The Cochran-Inouye bill sends the wrong message to Russia about renegotiating the ABM Treaty. Deploying a national missile defense system would require renegotiating the ABM Treaty--or else withdrawing from it unilaterally, which would seriously harm relations with Russia. Passing the Cochran-Inouye bill now sends a message to Russia that the United States sees the ABM Treaty as irrelevant and would simply withdraw from the treaty if negotiations prove difficult. It sends a message that the United States is unwilling to negotiate in good faith and to take Russian security concerns into account, thus sabotaging any negotiations before they even start.

Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.

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