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'Taking Aim at Midgetman'

March 06, 1986

I take issue to your editorial.

You ascribe game-playing and less than sober thinking to the Defense Department regarding MX and Midgetman (Small ICBM). If there is any game-playing, it is on the part of those opposed to nuclear weapons under any circumstances.

The Defense Department recognizes that the Small ICBM recommended by the Scowcroft Commission is theoretically a good concept (so do the Soviets), but practically, when it came to deploy, would be opposed by similar arguments used against the mobile MX (the argument was not against "big" missiles, but any nuclear missiles.

Those who are opposed to buying more MX missiles today may support development of the Small ICBM because it's a delaying tactic--Small ICBM deployment is approximately seven years away. The Soviets have already deployed mobile ICBM systems.

Deterrence is based on effective deployed-weapon systems, not those that could be procured at some future date. An MX is threatening to the Soviets because it is a credible system. It is also an essential counter to the Soviet SS-18s with 10 warheads.

The deployment of U.S. land-based strategic nuclear missiles are no longer optimized in a strictly military sense, but also have to satisfy U.S. arms control perceptions (which can be conflicting) and local political considerations (to say nothing of anti-nuclear groups at large). This is partly why the issue of a three-warhead Small ICBM has come up; it would cost less and pose less of a deployment problem. The fact is, we need 100 MX now to continue effective U.S. deterrent capability. Depending on arms control, we will also need some number of Small ICBMs in 1993. We place our country at risk by delaying buying more MX missiles.

H.M. WHITFIELD

Mission Viejo

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