Pentagon to pursue many missile-defense avenues; no map yet |

Pentagon to pursue many missile-defense avenues; no map yet


WASHINGTON (AP) – The Bush administration plans to explore as many as a dozen different approaches to missile defense after consulting with Russia, China and U.S. allies, and it has not yet devised a plan that is ”all firm and all fixed,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

On the day Rumsfeld’s top deputy left for Europe to discuss missile defense with government officials in France, Germany, Poland and Russia, the defense secretary told reporters that some people have the mistaken impression the administration is ready to implement a missile defense blueprint.

”People think, you know, my goodness, they obviously have something in their heads that’s all firm and all fixed and they’re going to suddenly pull open the curtain and there it is,” Rumsfeld said, his voice rising. ”Not true.”

As a presidential candidate last year, George W. Bush said he would build a missile defense as soon as possible and that it would be more extensive than the one the Clinton administration was pursuing.

In a speech last week, President Bush committed the United States to developing a missile shield to protect not only the United States but also its friends and allies abroad, but he provided no details on how he would do that. Some in the administration hope to have a missile defense ready by 2004.

Rumsfeld said the administration intends to pursue as many as a dozen different approaches, including some like sea-based and airborne defensive weapons for which testing is prohibited by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. He said some approaches will fail and be dropped while others will be carried through.

But first, he said, the administration will consult abroad and with the Congress. He seemed irritated, even a bit angry, at the suggestion that the administration is dragging its feet on missile defense decisions.

”We’re not dancing around,” he said.

Rumsfeld added, ”These consultations are serious, they’re real. This is a big important issue to discuss.” He indicated he believes Russia, China and other critics eventually will accept the administration’s approach, although it will ”take some relearning” on their part.

”It’s going to take a willingness on the part of people to recognize the difference in our circumstance today from what the circumstance was in the Cold War,” he said. ”We’re going to do that, and we’re going to do it well.”

Rumsfeld made his comments at a news conference at which he announced a series of organizational changes designed to sharpen the Pentagon’s focus on U.S. defense interests in outer space.

Critics were quick to denounce the reorganization as a step toward a weapons buildup in space, although Rumsfeld insisted to reporters that the changes have ”nothing to do with” the issue of space weapons. Rumsfeld himself has said space sensors for detecting and tracking missiles will play an important role in missile defense, and some in the administration believe space weapons may be needed.

Karl Grossman, a State University of New York journalism professor who is writing a book on the subject, called Rumsfeld’s announcement ”a major step by the U.S. government in turning the heavens into a war zone.”

Rumsfeld will put the Air Force in charge of planning and purchasing decisions for all of the Defense Department’s space programs, which currently are spread among the military services and other Pentagon agencies.

He also directed that the four-star general who heads Air Force Space Command be someone other than the commander of U.S. Space Command. Under the existing arrangement, Air Force Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart holds both jobs. Rumsfeld did not name the new commander of Air Force Space Command.

The Pentagon’s space programs encompass a wide variety of activities, from satellites that detect and track ballistic missiles to military communications, navigation and intelligence-gathering efforts.

”Space issues are complex and merit a renewed focus,” Rumsfeld said, adopting some of the recommendations of a commission he led before becoming defense secretary.

The changes, he said, ”will help the U.S. to focus on meeting the national security space needs for 21st century.”

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