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'Missiles: the Right Choice'

May 27, 1988

Your editorial "Missiles: the Right Choice" (May 4) misses the mark entirely. The Midgetman missile, which you endorse, will not be built for the overriding reason that it's unaffordable.

The Senate last year recognized the shortcomings of the all-too-expensive Midgetman missile, chopping the Pentagon request for $1.5 billion to $700 million. The reduced budget subsequently caused enough contracts to be cancelled and schedules to slip that no matter how much Congress provides this year, the deployment of the first Midgetman missile won't occur until 1996 at the earliest--four years after originally scheduled.

You admit in your editorial that the price is "steep." But how steep is steep? Five hundred Midgetman missiles would cost over $50 billion. The same amount of money could fund 200 rail-mobile MX missiles (having four times the deterrent capability), or double the number of Trident II submarines as currently planned, or triple the number of planned Stealth bombers.

Put another way, it's possible to build the rail-mobile MX force, which is equally survivable and poses no greater first-strike threat than the Midgetman, while saving $25 billion!

With a no-growth defense budget, we cannot afford to waste $25 billion.

This year, I expect Congress will provide no more than $200 million in research and development for the Midgetman missile. The shortfall in funding can be expected to cause even further delays in the schedule.

And guess what will happen to the cost of the missile? It's price tag will escalate, making the missile even less desirable.

In the editorial you are right to think about the implications of a START agreement. It would be ironic if, after reducing our strategic forces by 50%, the United States found itself more vulnerable to a Soviet attack than we are today. You also deserve credit for alerting the public to the fact that a new arms control agreement might end up costing money instead of providing a savings in defense spending.

The United States needs a survivable, practical and affordable strategic deterrent force. But as the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the chief of the Air Force have all said, "The Midgetman is the wrong choice."

SEN. PETE WILSON

R-California

Washington, D.C.

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