President Bush Visits National Defense University, Discusses Global War on TerrorThe White House
October 23, 2007
10:08 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. (Applause.) Thanks for the warm welcome. Madam President. (Laughter.) Thank you for that kind introduction. Thank you for welcoming me back to the National Defense University. I really enjoy coming here. After all, this is a great American institution that has educated our nation's top military leaders and national security thinkers for more than a century.
Today, you're training the next generation of leaders to prevail in the great ideological struggle of our time -- the global war on terror. We're at war with a brutal enemy. We're at war with cold-blooded killers who despise freedom, reject tolerance, and kill the innocent in pursuit of their political vision. Many of you have met this enemy on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq -- you have served with valor in the defense of our country. Students here at NDU have earned three Purple Hearts and more than 90 Bronze Stars since the war on terror began. All of you who wear the uniform are helping to protect this country, and the United States of America is grateful for your service. (Applause.)
In this war, we're on the offensive against the enemy -- and that's the only way to be. We'll fight them in foreign lands so we don't have to face them here in America. We'll pursue the terrorists across the world. We'll take every lawful and effective measure to protect ourselves here at home. In an age when terrorist networks and terrorist states are seeking weapons of mass destruction, we must be ready to defend our nation against every possible avenue of attack. I've come today to discuss the actions we're taking to keep our people safe -- and to update you on the progress of an initiative I announced on this very campus in 2001, and that is our efforts to defend America against a ballistic missile attack. My administration made a commitment to the American people then that we will defend you against all forms of terror -- including the terror that could arrive as a result of a missile. And we're keeping that commitment.
Another topic of concern is the devastation caused by the wildfires in southern California. All of us across this nation are concerned for the families who have lost their homes, and the many families who have been evacuated from their homes. We send our prayers and thoughts with those who've been affected, and we send the help of the federal government, as well.
Last night I declared an emergency which -- open up the opportunity for us to send federal assets to help the Governor and those who are fighting these fires. Today I have sent Secretary Chertoff and Director Paulison of the FEMA to go out to California to listen, develop an inventory of supplies and help that we can provide.
I appreciate very much the fact that the senior Senator from Alaska has joined us -- no stronger supporter for the United States military than Ted Stevens. We're proud you're here, Senator. Thank you for coming. (Applause.) I want to thank Congressman Todd Akin for joining us, as well, from the state of Missouri. Proud you're here, Congressman. Appreciate both of you all taking your time. (Applause.)
There's a lot of high-ranking officials here, but I do want to single out one -- that would be your Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, United States Marine James "Hoss" Cartwright. General, thank you for coming. Appreciate you being here. (Applause.) Thanks for letting me come by.
The men and women of the National Defense University understand what is at stake in today's war. First of all, you understand we're in war. And secondly, you understand the stakes of this war. On September the 11th, 2001, terrorists struck us five miles from this very spot. They crashed a plane into the Pentagon and killed 184 men, women, and children. And from this campus, you could see the smoke billowing across the Potomac. You lost one of your own that day -- Navy Captain Bob Dolan, Class of 1998, who was working in the Pentagon office when the plane hit it. With us today are four NDU students and one professor who helped with the rescue effort. These souls pulled victims from the wreckage, they provided emergency medical care, and they flew choppers to support recovery operations at the site of the attack. The attack that day was personal for people here at NDU. I took it personally, as well.
With the presence -- with the passage of time, the memories of September the 11th have grown more distant. That's natural. That's what happens with time. And for some, there's the temptation to think that the threats to our country have grown distant, as well. They have not. And our job, for those of us who have been called to protect America, is never to forget the threat, and to implement strategies that will protect the homeland. On 9/11, we saw that oceans which separate us from other continents no longer separates us from danger. We saw the cruelty of the terrorists. We saw the future they intend for us. They intend to strike our country again. Oh, some dismiss that as empty chatter; I'm telling you, they intend to strike our country again. And the next time they hope to cause destruction that will make 9/11 pale by comparison.
This new kind of threat has required a new kind of war -- and we're prosecuting that war on many fronts. Our Armed Forces have captured or killed thousands of extremists and radicals. We have removed terrorist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq that had supported terrorists and threatened our citizens. In these two nations we liberated 50 million people from unspeakable tyranny -- and now we're helping them build stable democracies that can govern justly and protect their citizens, and serve as allies in this war against extremists and radicals.
And one of the real challenges we face is will we have confidence in the liberty to be transformative? Will we lose faith in the universality of liberty? Will we ignore history and not realize that liberty has got the capacity to yield the peace we want? So this administration, along with many in our military, will continue to spread the hope of liberty, in order to defeat the ideology of darkness, the ideology of the terrorists -- and work to secure a future of peace for generations to come. That's our call.
In this new war, the enemy seeks to infiltrate operatives into our country and attack us from within. They can't beat our armies; they can't defeat our military. And so they try to sneak folks in our country to kill the innocent, to achieve their objectives. And that's one of the reasons we passed the Patriot Act -- and over the past six years, our law enforcement and intelligence officers have used the tools in this good law to break up terror cells and support networks in California, in New York, in Ohio, in Virginia, in Florida, and other states.
In this new war, the enemy uses advanced technology to recruit operatives and to train suicide bombers and to plan and plot new attacks on our country. And so we passed the Protect America Act, which strengthened our ability to collect foreign intelligence on terrorists overseas. It closed a dangerous gap in our intelligence. Unfortunately, this law is set to expire on February the 1st -- 101 days from now. Yet the threat from al Qaeda is not going to expire 101 days from now. So I call on Congress to make sure our intelligence professionals have the tools they need to keep us safe by strengthening the Protect American Act, and making it the permanent law of the land.
In this new war, the enemy conspires in secret -- and often the only source of information on what the terrorists are planning is the terrorists themselves. So we established a program at the Central Intelligence Agency to question key terrorist leaders and operatives captured in the war on terror. This program has produced critical intelligence that has helped us stop a number of attacks -- including a plot to strike the U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti, a planned attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi, a plot to hijack a passenger plane and fly it into Library Tower in Los Angeles, California, or a plot to fly passenger planes into Heathrow Airport and buildings into downtown London.
Despite the record of success, and despite the fact that our professionals use lawful techniques, the CIA program has come under renewed criticism in recent weeks. Those who oppose this vital tool in the war on terror need to answer a simple question: Which of the attacks I have just described would they prefer we had not stopped? Without this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. This CIA program has saved lives -- it is vital to the security of the American people.
In this new war, the enemy seeks weapons of mass destruction that would allow them to kill our people on an unprecedented scale. So we're working with friends and allies to stop our enemies from getting their hands on these weapons. We increased funding for a threat reduction program that is helping us to secure nuclear warheads and fissile materials in Russia. We launched the Global Threat Reduction Initiative that has removed enough material for more than 30 nuclear bombs from around the world. We launched the Container Security Initiative and other programs to detect and stop the movement of dangerous materials in foreign ports, and intercept these materials before they are placed on vessels destined for the United States.
With Russia, we launched the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, a coalition of more than 60 nations that are using their own resources to stop the illicit spread of nuclear materials. We established the Proliferation Security Initiative, a coalition of more than 80 nations working to intercept shipments of weapons of mass destruction on land and at sea and in the air. With our allies, we're going after the proliferators and shutting down their financial networks. And through these and other efforts, the message should be clear to the enemy: We're not going to allow mass murderers to gain access to the tools of mass destruction.
The war on terror will be won on the offense -- and that's where I intend to keep it, on the offense. Yet protecting our citizens is -- also requires defensive measures here at home. It's a new kind of war. It's a different conflict that you're studying here at NDU. It requires us to use all assets to keep the pressure on the enemy. There should be no day where they do not feel the pressure of the United States of America and our allies.
But at home, we've got to put defensive measures in place, measures that we have never had to put in place before. Since 2001, we've taken unprecedented actions to protect our citizens. After all, it's our most solemn duty in Washington, D.C., to protect the American people. We created the Department of Homeland Security. We established a new Northern Command at the Department of Defense. We established new programs to protect our cities against biological and radiological attacks. We beefed up airport and seaport security at home. We've instituted better visa screening for those entering our country. Since September of 2001, my administration has provided more than $23 billion to America's state and local first responders for equipment, and training, and other vital needs.
One of the most important defensive measures we have taken is the deployment of new capabilities to defend America against ballistic missile attack. On 9/11, we saw the damage our enemies could do by hijacking planes loaded with jet fuel, and turning them into missiles, and using them to kill the innocent. Today, dangerous regimes are pursuing far more powerful capabilities, and building ballistic missiles that could allow them to deliver these weapons to American cities.
The ballistic missile threat to America has been growing for decades. In 1972, just nine countries had ballistic missiles. Today, that number has grown to 27 -- and it includes hostile regimes with ties to terrorists. When I took office, our nation had no capability to defend the American people against long-range ballistic missile attacks. Our research, development, and testing program was hampered by a lack of funding. Our efforts to develop and deploy missile defense were constrained by the ABM Treaty -- a 30-year-old agreement negotiated with a Soviet Union that no longer existed.
So one of my administration's first national security initiatives was to reinvigorate our country's efforts to defend against ballistic missile attack. Here at the National Defense University, I announced America's intention to move beyond the ABM Treaty, and deploy missile defenses to protect our people, our forces abroad, and our allies around the world against limited attacks. I also pledged that as we build these defenses, America would undertake significant reductions in nuclear weapons -- and that we would establish a new approach to deterrence that would leave behind the adversarial legacy of the Cold War, and allow us to prepare for the threats of the 21st century. Over the past years, we have delivered on these pledges.
The first step we took was to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. At the time, critics warned of a disaster, with some declaring that our -- my decision could "give rise to a dangerous new arms race with Russia." Russia did not agree with my decision to withdraw. Yet President Putin declared that the decision at the time "does not pose a threat to Russia." And far from a new arms race, he announced that Russia would join the United States in making historic reductions in our deployed offensive nuclear arsenals.
The second step we took was to make missile defense operational, while continuing our research and development efforts. Instead of spending decades trying to develop a perfect shield, we decided to begin deploying missile defense capabilities as soon as the technology was proven ready -- and then build on that foundation by adding new capabilities as they matured. By the end of 2004, we had a rudimentary capability in place to defend against limited missile attacks by rogue states or an accidental launch. As new technologies come online, we continue to add to this system -- making it increasingly capable, and moving us closer to the day when we can intercept ballistic missiles of all ranges, in every stage of flight: from boost, to mid-course, and terminal.
The third step we took was to reach out to the world and involve other nations in the missile defense effort. Since 2001, we've worked closely with countries such as Israel, and Italy, and Germany, and Japan, and the Netherlands, and Britain, and others on missile defense. Together with our friends and allies, we're deploying early warning radars, and missile interceptors, and ballistic missile defense ships. We're working to jointly develop new missile defense capabilities. As a result of this collaboration, missile defense has gone from an American innovation to a truly international effort to help defend free nations against the true threats of the 21st century.
Our decision to make missile defense operational was validated in July of last year, when North Korea launched a series of destabilizing ballistic missile tests, including testing a system our intelligence community believes is capable of reaching the United States. Had these tests taken place just a few years earlier, they would have underscored America's vulnerability to a ballistic missile attack. Instead, because of the decisions we took in 2001, and because of the hard work of people in this room, our military had in place a capability to track the North Korean vehicle and engage it if it threatened our country. So a test North Korea intended to showcase its power became a demonstration that the pursuit of ballistic missiles will ultimately be fruitless -- because America and our allies are building and deploying the means to defend against this threat.
Last month, the Missile Defense Agency conducted its 30th successful "hit to kill" test since 2001. We got a lot of smart people working on this project, and they're proving that our vision can work. With this most recent success, our military commanders believe we can now have a credible system in place that can provide the American people with a measure of protection against threats emanating from Northeast Asia. The next step is to take a system that has passed demanding tests in the Pacific theater and deploy elements of it to Europe -- so we can defend America and our NATO allies from attacks emanating from the Middle East.
The need for missile defense in Europe is real and I believe it's urgent. Iran is pursuing the technology that could be used to produce nuclear weapons, and ballistic missiles of increasing range that could deliver them. Last November, Iran conducted military exercises in which it launched ballistic missiles capable of striking Israel and Turkey, as well as American troops based in the Persian Gulf. Iranian officials have declared that they are developing missiles with a range of 1,200 miles, which would give them the capability to strike many of our NATO allies, including Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and possibly Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia. Our intelligence community assesses that, with continued foreign assistance, Iran could develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States and all of Europe before 2015. If it chooses to do so, and the international community does not take steps to prevent it, it is possible Iran could have this capability. And we need to take it seriously -- now.
Today, we have no way to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat, so we must deploy a missile defense system there that can. This system will be limited in scope. It is not designed to defend against an attack from Russia. The missile defenses we can employ would be easily overwhelmed by Russia's nuclear arsenal. Russia has hundreds of missiles and thousands of warheads. We're planning to deploy 10 interceptors in Europe. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do the math. (Laughter.)
Moreover, the missile defenses we will deploy are intended to deter countries who would threaten us with ballistic missile attacks. We do not consider Russia such a country. The Cold War is over. Russia is not our enemy. We're building a new security relationship, whose foundation does not rest on the prospect of mutual annihilation.
As part of the new relationship, we're inviting Russia to join us in this cooperative effort to defend Russia, Europe and the United States against an emerging threat that affects us all. For his part, President Putin has offered the use of radar facilities in Azerbaijan and southern Russia. We believe that these sites could be included as part of a wider threat monitoring system that could lead to an unprecedented level of strategic cooperation between our two countries.
For our part, we're planning to deploy a system made up of 10 ground-based interceptors located in Poland and an X-Band tracking radar located in the Czech Republic. Such a system would have the capacity to defend countries in Europe that would be at risk from a long-range attack from the Middle East. We're also working with NATO on developing capabilities to defend countries against short- and medium-range attacks from the Middle East. We want to work on such a system with Russia, including through the NATO-Russia Council. The danger of ballistic missile attacks is a threat we share -- and we ought to respond to this threat together.
The effort to develop ballistic missile defenses is part of a broader effort to move beyond the Cold War and establish a new deterrence framework for the 21st century. In 1960, President Eisenhower spoke to the students at this campus. He told them, "Our first priority task is to develop and sustain a deterrent commanding the respect of any potential aggressor." And during those early years of the Cold War, deterrence required building a nuclear force large enough to survive and retaliate after a Soviet first strike.
Today, our adversaries have changed. We no longer worry about a massive Soviet first strike. We worry about terrorist states and terrorist networks that might not be deterred by our nuclear forces. To deal with such adversaries we need a new approach to deterrence. This approach combines deep reductions in offensive nuclear forces with new, advanced conventional capabilities and defenses to protect free people from nuclear blackmail or attack.
So in 2001, I directed the Department of Defense to achieve a credible deterrent -- a credible deterrent -- with the lowest number of nuclear weapons consistent with our national security needs, including our obligations to our allies. These reductions were eventually codified in the Moscow Treaty, which commits the United States and Russia to reduce our operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 within five years from now. Since the Moscow Treaty took effect, the United States has retired all of our Peacekeeper ICBMs, and reduced our operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads from more than 6,000 when I took office to fewer than 3,800 today. When the rest of the reductions we have set in motion are completed, the total U.S. nuclear stockpile will be one-quarter its size at the end of the Cold War, the lowest level since the Eisenhower administration.
As we reduce our nuclear arsenal, we're investing in advanced conventional capabilities. These include new unmanned aerial combat vehicles, and next generation long-range precision weapons that allows us to strike enemies quickly, at great distances, without using nuclear weapons. We're investing in the next generation of missile defenses -- because these systems do more than defend our citizens, they also strengthen deterrence.
Think of it this way: A terrorist regime that can strike America or our allies with a ballistic missile is likely to see this power as giving them free rein for acts of aggression and intimidation in their own neighborhoods. But with missile defenses in place, the calculus of deterrence changes in our favor. If this same terrorist regime does not have confidence their missile attack would be successful, it is less likely to engage in acts of aggression in the first place. We would also have more options for dealing with their aggression if deterrence fails.
In addition to strengthening our deterrent, missile defense also strengthens our counter-proliferation efforts. One reason for the dramatic proliferation of ballistic missile technology over the past 30 years is that America and our allies had no defense against them. By deploying effective defenses, we reduce incentives to build ballistic missiles -- because rogue regimes are less likely to invest in weapons that cannot threaten free nations.
Missile defense also helps us dissuade nations from developing nuclear weapons. Through our missile defense partnerships with nations in Asia and Europe and the Middle East, we can help friends and allies defend against missile attack. These defenses will build their confidence. And these defenses will make it less likely that they will feel the need to respond to the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea by developing nuclear weapons of their own.
Missile defense is a vital tool for our security. It's a vital tool for deterrence, and it's a vital tool for counter-proliferation. Yet despite all these benefits, the United States Congress is cutting funding for missile defense. Congress has cut our request for missile defenses in Europe by $139 million, which could delay deployment for a year or more and undermine our allies who are working with us to deploy such a system on their soil. Congress has eliminated $51 million from the Airborne Laser program -- a critical effort that will allow us to intercept missiles in the boost stage of flight, when they're still over the country that launched them. Congress has slashed $50 million from the Multiple Kill Vehicle program that will help us defeat both the incoming warhead and the decoys deployed to overcome our defenses. Congress has cut $50 million from the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, a constellation of space satellites that can help us more effectively detect and track ballistic missiles headed for our country. Each of these programs is vital to the security of America -- and Congress needs to fully fund them.
The greatest threat facing our nation in the 21st century is the danger of terrorist networks or terrorist states armed with weapons of mass destruction. We're taking decisive action at home and abroad to defend our people from this danger. With bold investments today, we can ensure that the men and women in this hall have the tools you need to confront the threats of tomorrow. We will ensure that you have the tools necessary to do the solemn duty of protecting the American people from harm.
I want to thank each of you for stepping forward to serve our country. You're courageous folks. Because of your willingness to volunteer in a time of war, there's no doubt in my mind we can prevail in this war. It requires determination, resolve, steadfast -- steadfastness in the face of a brutal enemy. And having served as the Commander-in-Chief for nearly six-and-three-quarters years, there's no doubt in my mind that the United States military has that resolve and has that courage. God bless you. (Applause.)
END 10:40 A.M. EDT