20 July 2001


When it comes to the views of the labor movement in general --- and of my union in particular --- there are people in this city (and maybe even in this room) who believe the conventional wisdom.

On labor, they've read the headlines.

On all the great issues of our times, they assume that they know where labor --- and the Machinists in particular --- are going to be.

I understand that.

If you've ever covered the labor movement, I m sure you know that I have the honor of serving as International President of one of this country s toughest, strongest and most progressive unions.

Over a period of many years, the men and women of the IAM have earned for themselves a title.

They call us the fighting Machinists.

And let me tell you --- we're damn proud of it.

We're Bill Winpisinger's union --- and we know where we stand.

With passion, we re for civil rights and for women s rights. We are pro-environment and pro-consumer. We want to strengthen public education at every level. And we re not about to sit still for any effort by anyone to turn back the clock.

None of this, I am sure, comes as any surprise to you.

But here s something that might.

There's one major issue --- National Missile Defense --- on which we strongly disagree with some of our best friends in the Senate and the House.

Let me explain.

Machinists number over half million highly skilled workers.

We're the folks who actually build the world s most sophisticated high tech products.

For example?

I myself spent fifteen years working at the GE jet engine plant near Cincinnati.

At first hand, I witnessed the evolution of an exceptionally complex technology.

By the time I left that plant, the engines we built were performing at levels that once seemed out of reach. To get it right took years and years.

When I think back on it --- well, it s just tremendously impressive.

Our Machinists today are out there on the cutting edge of technology.

They are smart --- experienced --- savvy.

They do not miss a trick.

And when Machinists --- and I am talking here about lots of Machinists from lots of different places --- say that big things are happening in missile defense technology, I know that I d better listen up --- and so should you.

What are they telling me?

Well, we don t have in this union a whole lot of Pollyannas.

Our members recognize that in missile defense, the engineering and production challenges are tremendous.

They know that to work out the bugs and the glitches and the unforeseen problems will take time and lots of rigorous testing.

If you ask the folks who are doing the actual work on NMD, they'll tell you that the systems right now are not --- repeat, not ---ready for prime time ... even with last Saturday s successful intercept.

They'll tell you that, in the strongest of terms, they disagree with politicians who think that quicker is better and who want to deploy prematurely.

From experience, our people know that complex systems like the NMD cannot be developed on a political timetable.

Careful, painstaking testing --- that s the bottom line. It s the way to get it right. And we're not the only ones who think so.

Last fall, Lt. Gen. Ronald T. Kadish, director of the Pentagon s Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, laid it on the line in testimony before a House panel.

The technologies we are using in our sensors, interceptors and BM|C3, General Kadish said, are not what make this a high-risk program. Rather, it is our short development schedule that compels us to work with so much risk,

At that same House hearing, Phillip E. Coyle, the DOD Director of Operational Test and Development, was even more blunt.

The NMD Program, he said, has demonstrated considerable progress during the past two years , but deployment means the fielding of an operational system with some military utility which is effective under realistic combat conditions and against realistic threats and countermeasures.

Such a capability, Mr. Coyle continued, has yet to be shown to be practical for NMD.

And that s not all he had to say.

NMD acquisition and construction schedules need to be linked to capability achievements demonstrated in a robust test program, not to schedule per se. 

With that point of view, we fully agree.

But times change.

So do Administrations.

Now, the President and the Secretary of Defense are pushing for a quick deployment.

Secretary Rumsfeld has even been quoted in the press as saying that our systems don t even have to work.  All that is necessary is for a potential attacker to think that they might.

Why are they doing this?

Maybe they know something that the rest of us do not about some potential threat that is gathering strength out there.

But I doubt that.

 It could also be that we are looking at a bargaining tactic --- put out a large, controversial program and let Congress cut it back to what you really wanted to begin with.

That, I d guess, is possible.

Or maybe --- and my instincts tell me that this might be it --- the Bush Administration is having another one of its ideological spasms.

They are moving this way, perhaps, not because it is necessary or will advance the program, but because it will please vocal elements on the right.

That's bad thinking.

It seems to me that moving with undue haste to deploy an untested or semi-tested or dubiously tested system has the potential to turn Congress and the American public decisively against the whole concept of a national missile defense. And that, I say to you, would be a very great shame.

At the Machinists, we are of the opinion that given time, resources and an honest, systematic, painstaking and robust testing program, NMD will come together.

Our members who are working on this project are excited.

They see progress and potential --- and a chance, perhaps, to do something important for the country.

And they know what they are talking about.

NMD is not rooted in wishful thinking.

It is not science fiction.
This is a system of systems.

It brings together a range of complex technologies, each of them of demonstrated, proven effectiveness. But the problem --- and it s a very big one --- is to integrate the various elements and get them working together.

That was the problem with America s early rockets, too.

I've seen the footage from the 1950s --- and I'm sure that you have, too --- of American rockets blowing up and tipping over and flying off out of control. Meanwhile, in orbit above, old sputnik went beeping merrily along.

The evolution from Redstone to Saturn V, from Polaris to Poseidon, was not without spectacular failures.

We persisted.

We prevailed.
And we overcame.

At the Machinists, we re convinced that sooner or later --- and I personally would  guess sooner given last Saturday's success ---  missile defense technology will follow that same track.

In spite of political deadlines and interference, we can do it.

I don't doubt that --- not for a moment.

But should we?

Once we have a missile defense system that works, should we put it in place?

That's the issue.

The most fundamental question that must be answered before deciding whether to deploy is simple, says Senator Carl Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee. Will such defenses make America more or less secure?

If national missile defenses will make America more secure, says Senator Levin, then it makes sense to deploy them. But if they will leave the nation less secure, then they should not be deployed.

That makes sense to me.

And to that question of whether the system is likely to make our country more secure,  my answer is a resounding Yes! But before telling you why I think so, let me comment briefly on two related issues

First off, some very smart people --- good friends of ours among them --- say that to go forward with a national missile defense program would inevitably require this country unilaterally to scrap the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972.

Is that necessarily true?

Well I've got to admit that some of the belligerent words we've heard on this subject from President Bush and others in his Administration suggest that they may, in fact, be prepared to go bulling ahead on this thing.

The right-wingers who dominate this Administration positively want to dump this treaty -- and to do it right away.


Well, I wouldn't want to be accused of practicing psychiatry without a license, but I get the feeling that maybe these fellows watched a tad too many John Wayne movies.

They sure do like to talk tough.

But here s the question.

Are tough people impressed?

I don t think so.

That way, I think, lies trouble --- trouble for the country internationally and trouble for the national missile defense program in Congress and with public opinion.

If the hard cases from the Administration were to ask my opinion, which they won't, I d tell them: Get a grip. Calm down. Slow down.

I'm no diplomat --- far from it.  But about negotiations, I know a thing or two. And when I look at what we want to do and what the Russians and others are concerned about, I can see the makings of a deal.

NMD is designed to protect us against the low end of the potential threat --- a dozen missiles or so.

Against an all-out attack by Russia, which currently has in excess of 6,000 nuclear weapons, the NMD system would be of virtually no value. The system, therefore, does not in any way threaten the Russian deterrent.

And if NMD does not threaten them, then why wouldn't the Russians --- for a price of some kind, no doubt --- be willing to renegotiate the ABM treaty in order to permit us to deploy a limited defensive system?

I am inclined to believe that ultimately, the Russians will go along.

Why shouldn t they?

And even if, in the end, the Russians say No, the United States, in my judgement, has absolutely, positively got to be seen here at home and around the world as having made a good faith effort to get it done.

The second issue I want to address is cost.

According to Pentagon estimates, which are not famous for their reliability, total program cost for NMD over the next few years will come to approximately $60 billion.

Unfortunately the Bush Administration has not told us how they plan to pay for it.

What will they do?

Frankly, I do not have any idea.

But if the President is as committed to this program as he says he is --- and I don t doubt that --- then he'll just have to find a way. That s what leadership is all about.

Clearly, it won't be easy.

 Given a slowing economy, falling revenues and the very large size of his tax cuts, the President could go fishing for money elsewhere in the Defense budget. If and when he does, he will learn the meaning of the phrase entrenched resistance.

Alternatively, the President could try to raid the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

But he'd better not.

Mr. Bush could consider taking a page from the old Reagan Bush playbook and going the deficit route.

Will that fly? Nope.
So, is a budget battle over NMD inevitable?


As a union man and a Democrat, I may feel a certain glee at seeing the Bush Administration ensnarled in a trap of its own making. And as much as I want to jump up and down and say I told you so the fact is that I must put my partisanship aside. We must find a constructive way out of this trap.

In spite of what the right wing ideologues in the Bush Administration want to believe, there are things that the government of the United States has simply got to do.

And I am convinced that one of those things is to develop and to test and yes, to deploy an effective missile defense system.

On that subject, let us talk a little turkey.

In the world today, America s the dominant military power.

It is safe to say, I think, that no country in the world would want to pick a head-to head fight with us. 

We'd mop the floor with em --- and that s a fact.

Everybody knows it.

But it is also safe to say that there are countries in the world --- and political and religious movements, too and maybe even criminal groups --- who do not, as President Kennedy used to say, wish our country well.

If they cannot take us on in a direct, military sense, our adversaries will find other ways.

They'll look for vulnerabilities --- chinks in the armor --- ways to threaten this country with unacceptable consequences and to impose upon us unbearable pain.

In the world as it is today, all manner of countries, movements and criminal conspiracies have the potential to gain access to chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons.

And yes, there are many ways in which such weapons might be delivered. Timothy McVeigh taught us that.

But a primary threat--- and one that is increasing exponentially --- is surely the ballistic missile.

Missile technology today is a genie that is out of the bottle.

North Korea, for example, is not my idea of an advanced technological society. But by using your basic SCUD and adding to it rocket technology developed in Russia, China and Egypt, North Korea produced a missile that can threaten Japan and will soon have another one that can reach American territory.

Missiles, in fact, are one of North Korea s very few exports.

And its missile technology --- enhanced SCUDS, basically --- is migrating steadily towards the Middle East.

Syria, for example, successfully tested a SCUD tipped with a chemical warhead only last month.

But you know, we re not just talking about rogue governments in North East Asia and the Middle East.

Thirty-five nations around the world are now known to possess some form of ballistic missile --- and most of others, no doubt, know where to buy them.

At least ten countries in the world possess chemical or biological weapons --- and one of the terrible truths of our times is that weapons of this kind are not all that hard to make.

At least eight countries are known to have nuclear weapons.

Between three and five others are knocking on the door.

And if it s true what we hear about what s been going on in the former Soviet Union, then who knows what in the way of weapons and fissionable materials may reach ---or have reached already --- the international black market.

Listen --- I mentioned to you before the name of Timothy Mc Veigh.

This was a guy, who with calculation and great malice, committed a horrible, unspeakable atrocity.

But Mc Veigh was an American --- a Catholic kid from a blue collar family in Buffalo.

Whatever the crazy place he wound up, the guy started out in life exposed to a set of values that we all understand, honor and respect.

Out in the world as it is today, there are a lot of folks who don t start with values like ours.

There are people --- people who run or will run countries and major movements --- who start out where Mc Veigh wound up.

And if they don t have such things already, they soon may be able get their hands on really terrible weapons  --- and on the missiles to deliver them on American targets.

Which of our cities might be the target?

Would it be Anchorage? Honolulu? Seattle? Portland? San Francisco? Los Angeles?

Do you think that this is far-fetched? Improbable?

Who, you might ask, would be crazy enough to risk his or her own personal survival?

Well --- the surviving crew members of the U.S.S. Cole know the answer. So do the parents of the twenty-odd Israeli teenagers who went out dancing one night not long ago and never came home.

What I am saying to you is that we are no longer dealing with predictable threats.

The Soviet Union was a truly nasty regime --- and a ruthless one to boot. I, for one, rejoiced to see it go away.

But in a strategic sense, the USSR was a known quantity.

It had leaders who were cautious and who were interested in this world, not the next.  They understood what weapons of mass destruction really are. And in their own sphere, they were in complete control.

For better or for worse, that s not the world in which we live today.

It is not the world in which our children and grandchildren will be growing up.

Seven. Ten. Fifteen years from now, they will face graver and more unpredictable threats.

So, to my Democratic friends on Capitol Hill, I would urge them to forego the short-term, tactical, partisan advantage.

I know how easy it would be to craft a maze of budgetary and diplomatic obstacles that could stall development of a national missile defense. But can our party really afford to be seen as weak on the defense of America s cities?

I think not. I hope my party s leaders will come to agree with me.

And, to those Republicans whose anti-union credentials are impeccable, I would urge you to go slow. Speed is not the imperative here. The successful defense of America's cities is.

In your haste to win political points, you may jeopardize the entire missile defense program. And that would be a travesty.

Even though he s a man with whom I have often disagreed, I've got to say that in my judgement, Henry Kissinger had it right in a recent article. He wrote:

No president can take the responsibility, in a world of proliferating nuclear and missile technology, for leaving the American people vulnerable to attacks for which a demonstrated and growing capacity exists --- not when he has available an emerging technology that shows promise in protecting at least against the lower end of these dangers.

That, for me, is the bottom line.

In the end, we've got to do this.

We've got to do it right

And if there's a way that I and the people I represent can help move this issue out of the realm of ideology and partisan politics, then I say to anyone who may be listening that we stand ready to try our best.

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