EDITORS NOTE: The following letter was sent out by Sen. Barbara Mikulski in response to constitutents' expressed concerns about the national missile defense plan.
I am concerned that the Bush administration's efforts to pursue a national missile defense may actually increase risks to the American people. On December 13, 2001, President Bush gave formal notice to Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine that the United States is withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty because of the constraints it imposes on the testing of missile defense systems.
President Bush's unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, without Congressional consent, could cause other nations to doubt the reliability of the United States when it signs and ratifies international agreements. Without the provisions of the ABM treaty, nations like China will accelerate their missile programs to evade the protections that will be provided by future missile defense systems. Russia will be free to develop defenses against U.S. missiles, weakening deterrence.
The technology for a National Missile Defense system has not been developed. True testing won't begin for another ten years. In the meantime, the systems that are being tested have often failed, even though the tests don't simulate real-world conditions. When a weapons system can't avoid simple decoys in favorable testing conditions, it's not anywhere near ready for deployment.
Even if we had dependable National Missile Defense technology, the costs of implementing it would be astronomical. America would need to build a multitude of missile sites and radar stations to react to the threat of a large attack from abroad. While the Department of Defense won't release its projection of system cost, conservative estimates range from $70 billion to over $200 billion for a fully effective program.
Devoting so much of our defense resources to National Missile Defense would leave more serious risks unaddressed. According to the CIA's National Intelligence Assessment, other risks are more likely or more dangerous--or both. Terrorists can use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against the United States without using missiles. We need to modernize our armed forces and homeland security to address the real risks we face today and will face tomorrow. That's why I support strengthening programs to stop proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missile technology.
If we combine effective diplomacy and sanctions, we can reduce the missile threat to the United States without building a "Star Wars" system we cannot afford. As you may know, the Senate agreed to transfer $1.3 billion of the $8.3 billion the President requested for national missile defense in 2002 to counter terrorism programs and military needs.
As the Senate continues to debate this important topic, you can count on me to monitor the developments of this issue closely.