Alaska senators say attacks reinforce need for missile defense system

Posted: Friday, September 14, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska's senators say the jet attacks on the World Trader Center and Pentagon don't weakon arguments for a proposed national system to defend the United States against intercontinental ballistic missile attack.

''I think there's as much justification today as there was before,'' Sen. Frank Murkowski said Wednesday.

Defense against the variety of possible threats is in the national interest, he said. The only difference between a missile attack and an anonymous terrorist attack is that a missile can be tracked back to its origin, he said.

Sen. Ted Stevens said the jet attacks simply bolster what he and other missile defense proponents have been saying.

''I think it proves the case that the threats against the United States are not those of a monolithic superpower like the Soviet Union anymore,'' Stevens told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''The threats are the threats from terroristic organizations, from rogue nations.''

Critics have long argued that the proposed missile defense system is too expensive. Part of the system could be based in Alaska, and the military wants to start building test facilities next summer in Fort Greely and on Kodiak Island.

''All the billions and billions of dollars that (President) Bush wants to throw at the missile defense program wouldn't have been able to save those thousands of people,'' said Stacy Studebaker of the Kodiak Island Rocket Launch Information Group, a 100-member organization that opposes the use of the state-owned facility on Kodiak for missile defense testing.

''I'm hoping it's a wake-up call to Congress to re-evaluate our plans. It's such an unrealistic scenario to defend against,'' said Studebaker, a marine biologist, teacher and 22-year resident of Kodiak.

The most controversial portion of the U.S. missile defense system proposal would seek to knock down a limited number of intercontinental missiles as they fly through space in their ''mid-course'' phase.

But Stevens said the several missile defense systems being developed by the military would try to meet a variety of threats, the potential breadth of which were demonstrated by the jet attack.

''How do you protect against that?'' he asked. ''You protect against it with a whole system.''

This fall, the military hopes to obtain money from Congress to start building silos next summer at Fort Greely, 90 miles southeast of Fairbanks, to store missiles being tested as part of the proposed ''mid-course'' missile defense system. The military also wants to build silos to help launch those interceptor missiles from the state facility at Kodiak Island.

Democrats on a key Senate committee, however, last week refused to authorize the military's full missile defense funding request and voted to put restrictions on its testing.

Ground clearing for the silos at Fort Greely began late last month using money appropriated by Congress last year.

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