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Missile defense system not a new idea

By By SONNY CALLAHAN
U.S. Representative
Last week, the world watched as President Bush made his first official visit to Europe in an effort to demonstrate his effectiveness as a strong international leader and to strengthen the relationships that have developed during the past several decades with our friends in that part of the world.
Obviously, the president was interested in discussing many issues of common concern to both Europe and the United States.  However, one topic which was raised numerous times by both his European political counterparts and the media was his proposal for a new missile defense system.
Rationale for the proposal
Naturally, with the state of affairs in the world today, many international leaders are concerned about the United States taking steps that may potentially ignite a new Cold War-era arms race. Some have expressed concern over the appearance this plan may give if implemented.
At the same time, I can certainly understand the president's rationale for proposing a missile defense system. While the Cold War ended just over a decade ago, the threat of a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union is greatly diminished due to improved relations. However, other threats still exist.
As has been demonstrated repeatedly since the end of Operation Desert Storm, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein continues to push the envelope and challenge the superiority of those nations he perceives as enemies.  He has devoted a significant amount of his country's manpower and resources to the development of biological and chemical weapons that could potentially be mounted on short- or long-range rockets and launched against neighboring countries.
The rapid succession of underground nuclear tests by the governments of both India and Pakistan in recent years demonstrates the instability in the relationship between those two countries, and the lengths to which those nations will go to gain the dominant position in that part of the world.
The threats posed by such international terrorists such as Osama Bin-Laden cannot be taken lightly, particularly since the actions of these individuals or groups cannot be predicted with any certainty, even with the most detailed surveillance in place.
As the president stated recently in a press conference held at Camp David with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, "There is the threat of an accidental launch of a missile; there are threats of potential blackmail when one of these nations develops weapons of mass destruction and is willing to point at America, Britain, our allies, our friends, people with whom we've got commitments.  And we've got to deal with those in a realistic way."
Not a new idea
Actually, the missile defense idea proposed by the president is not a new one.
As far back as the early 1950s, the United States has been involved in the research and development of anti-ballistic missile defense systems.  President Nixon converted a 1960s-style urban defense system into the "Safeguard" system, which would have guaranteed that a sufficient number of interceptor missiles were in place to survive a Soviet first strike.
One of the most well-known proposals was the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) suggested in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan.  More commonly known as the "Star Wars" defense system n after the popular science fiction movie of that name n the SDI would have allowed for the development of thousands of land-, sea-, air-, and space-based sensors and missile interceptors.  However, the changing environment in the Soviet bloc and the increasing costs for this plan led to its being scrapped during the first Bush administration.
The Clinton administration also developed a National Missile Defense plan following a 1993 review of military plans and readiness.  This plan emphasized the theater missile defense development and deployment system.  In late 2000, after billions of dollars and thousands of man-hours in research and development, President Clinton decided not to implement the plan due to his lack of confidence in the technology.
Importance to the district
The Constitution mandates that the federal government provide for a strong national defense for the protection of its citizens.  Regardless of which political party has occupied the White House, national defense has been a major issue, and continues to be so. 
At this point, no formal proposal has been submitted to the House of Representatives for review.  I certainly anticipate the president will make a strong pitch for his plan and I will give it careful consideration.   
Until next week, take care and God Bless.