CATEGORY: USA Federal Government
HED: Cochran introduces missile defense bill
By Marty Russell
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., introduced a bill Monday that would require the United States to implement a national missile defense system "as soon as technology permits."
The bill is described by a Cochran spokeswoman as policy legislation and not intended to back or fund any particular defense system.
Meanwhile, in a news release issued Friday, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said the 1999 Defense Authorization Bill would authorize Congress to spend up to $189 million on a space-based laser system.
Lott describes the laser system as "the cornerstone" of a national missile defense program and said the former army ammo plant on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is one of three sites being considered to build the laser defense system.
The bill filed Monday by Cochran and co-sponsored by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, is directed at changing the Clinton administration's current "3+3" policy toward a national missile defense system.
In an article penned by Cochran in Monday's edition of the congressional newspaper Roll Call, he calls Clinton's plan to develop a missile defense system within three years of a perceived threat and then deploy it within three years of development "inadequate to protect American citizens and security interests."
The bill, if passed, "sends a clear message to any rogue state seeking ballistic missile delivery systems that America will not be vulnerable to these weapons indefinitely," Cochran said in introducing the legislation.
The bill does not specify what kind of missile defense system should be deployed or when.
"It does not mandate a deployment date, only that we deploy as soon as the technology is ready," Cochran said.
Cochran chaired the Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services that conducted a series of hearings last year on the threat of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
Mississippi's senior senator said the number of nations possessing long-range missile delivery systems and a poor record by U.S. intelligence services in detecting those systems means a missile defense system should be deployed as soon as possible.