May 11, 1998
The Administration strongly opposes S. 1873 because it would commit the
United States to deploy a National Missile Defense system in the absence of
a current rogue state long-range ballistic missile threat. Commitment to
deployment now would result in deployment of a technological option that
may be outdated if a threat does emerge. For these reasons, if S. 1873
were presented to the President in its current form, the President's senior
advisors would recommend that the bill be vetoed.
The Administration is committed to ensuring proper protection of the American people and America's national security interests. This requires a carefully balanced defense program that ensures the ability to meet threats to our people and vital interests wherever and whenever they arise. A key element of the Administration's defense program is the National Missile Defense program, which was restructured by the Department of Defense in 1997, with the support of Congress, as a "3+3" deployment readiness program. Under this approach, by 2000 the United States is to be in a position to make a deployment decision if warranted by the threat, and if a decision to deploy were made at that time the initial National Missile Defense system would be deployed by 2003. If in 2000 the threat assessment does not warrant a deployment decision, improvements in the National Missile Defense system component technology would continue, while an ability is maintained to deploy a system within three years of a decision.
The Administration shares with Congress a commitment to ensuring the American people receive protection from missile threats when they need it. S. 1873, however, would alter the "3+3" strategy so as to eliminate taking into account the nature of the threat when making a deployment decision. This would lead to deployment of an inferior system less capable of defending the American people if and when a threat emerges.