Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Fitzwater on the Department of Defense Report on the Strategic Defense Initiative

May 20, 1987

In response to a requirement placed on the Department of Defense in the 1987 Defense Authorization Act, the Secretary of Defense has sent to the Congress today a report which describes the effect on our Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program if the President were to restructure the program consistent with the broad interpretation of the ABM treaty. When he determined in October 1985 that a broad interpretation of the treaty is fully justified, the President decided then as a matter of policy that it was not necessary to restructure the SDI program as long as it was adequately supported. The classified report submitted to the Congress today describes activities which the United States could conduct under a restructured SDI program aligned to the broader interpretation of the treaty. It also lays out the Department of Defense's estimates of some of the costs involved in continued adherence to the current U.S. policy of not restructuring the SDI program.

This report parallels material already provided to the President, at his request, by the Secretary of Defense. In order to provide a basis for a decision on whether to restructure the SDI program to exercise our rights under the broad interpretation of the treaty, the President requested an analysis of this issue as well as three legal studies of the ABM treaty prepared by the Legal Adviser of the Department of State. Two of the requested legal studies have been completed, and the third should be finished at the beginning of June. The two legal studies which have been completed have already been submitted to the Congress. The report which the Department of Defense submitted today is an element of our continuing consultations with Congress and demonstrates our commitment to providing Congress with as much information as possible on these issues.

The Strategic Defense Initiative is vital to the future security of the United States and our allies. Before the President makes a final decision about whether to restructure the program to exercise our rights under the broad interpretation of the ABM treaty, he would like the full benefit of consultations with the Congress and our allies. It is essential that the Congress, for its part, avoid taking preemptive steps which would undermine SDI. It is critically important that the executive and legislative branches of our government reach a consensus on a strong SDI program.