RUMSFELD says he would recommend Bush veto Senate spending bill that cuts missile defense money, imposes testing limits

Sunday, September 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday he would recommend that President Bush veto a military spending bill that cuts $1.3 billion from his request for missile defense and restricts testing.

``There is a hard core of people who, for whatever reason, are determined to kill missile defense. And I just don't believe that vulnerability of the American people to ballistic missiles is a rational policy,'' Rumsfeld said.

Last week, the Democratic-run Senate Armed Services Committee voted along party lines to reduce by $1.3 billion Bush's request to increase missile defense funds by $3 billion, to $8.3 billion.

The legislation also would limit the president's ability to conduct missile defense activities that would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia.

``I certainly would recommend a veto to the president,'' Rumsfeld said on ``Fox News Sunday.''

The restrictions would require a special vote by Congress before any money could be spent on an activity that the president tells Congress would violate the ABM treaty, even if the United States is no longer a party to that treaty.

``That has no chance at all of going into law,'' Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi said. But the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Joseph Biden of Delaware, said: ``That position will succeed.''

The provision was part of legislation authorizing defense spending of $343 billion in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Rumsfeld was hopeful that when the House and Senate resolve differences in each chamber's defense spending plans, missile defense money will be restored.

``I have found over time that the American people care about their national security, they understand its importance, and that the Congress tends to be supportive,'' he said.

``So I think that a presumption that what came out of the Senate committee will necessarily end up as the final decision may very well prove to be wrong.''

The House Armed Services Committee last month voted to trim $135 million from the missile defense request.

Rumsfeld said the limit on missile defense in the Senate committee's bill ``basically ties the president's hands in the discussions with the Russians.''

``It says to the Russians that there are those in the Senate who are not willing to give the president the freedom to go forward with a test program that he intends to go forward with,'' he said. ``So it's important that that be defeated in the House and Senate.''

Bush is trying to strike a deal with the Russians to replace the ABM treaty with an arrangement that allows for national missile defense.

Rumsfeld, who plans to meet later this month with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in Italy, said the administration was keeping an open dialogue with Moscow.

``It is entirely possible that we will be able to find a framework that we can establish between our two countries that is not Cold War-oriented,'' he said.

Rumsfeld, however, also said: ``If we're not able to find a framework that can be appropriate for our two countries going forward between now and the end of the year, the president has indicated he'll have to give consideration to giving a six-month notification for withdrawal.''

The president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said ``there's a lot of work to do'' in consulting with Russia, China and U.S. allies.

The United States will make an offer that ``we think is appropriate. ... We hope it's an offer they can't refuse,'' she said on NBC's ``Meet the Press.''

Administration officials plan to give the Chinese a briefing about the shield before Bush visits China next month.

``Our conversations with the Chinese will be much like they were with others. It will be to tell them about the missile defense program, to be transparent about that, to convince them that, in fact, it is not a problem,'' Rice said.

Added Rumsfeld, on CNN's ``Late Edition'': ``We want people in the world to understand what we're doing. But we have not proposed sharing missile defense capability with the People's Republic of China.''