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Informal Remarks by the Vice President with a Reporter from the New York Times on the Strategic Defense Initiative

August 24, 1988

Q: S.D.I., would you explain your views in terms of development and deployment and talk about the money you envision spending.

A: I don't think we yet know what the price tag will be. If you went to a full deployment of a full strategic defense it would be very expensive. What I want to do is to continue to research at the levels of funding essentially that we've requested. It keeps getting cut a little bit. But continue that research.

There are new technologies being looked at that would make it quite economic to deploy a major S.D.I., because they are near expensive as some of the systems that are being looked at in the research.

We don't know yet which system is going to be the most effective. So my view is full funding of the research, and then make the deployment decision when you have all the cards on the table. And of course, if you went to a very, very expensive system, you'd have to cut back on something else or you would have to somehow find additional funding for the defense budget, which I recognize will be very hard.

But if we can prove the defense step by step, we can afford to; if we can make the case that we are going to go all out for full deployment of pure defense, then we can get the money, but it has to be so airtight that you can dispose of a lot of other systems that deter aggression. We are not there yet. So my view is just go forward with a vigorous research program and make the deployment decision when you have all the information in your hand.

There is another thesis that interests me that I first wasn't too interested in: that is this concept that Sam Nunn talked about, one -I don't want to say rather small -but one of partial deployment. Not a full shield, but a partial deployment.

If I can get convinced by the experts that that would be a guardian, a safeguard against a weapons accidentally fired or weapons in the hands of some terrorist state, then I'd be interest in this partial deployment.

At this juncture, I am not prepared to endorse it, but I'm not prepared to totally reject it.

In Dallas I was saying, no, I want to fully go forward with the research and then make the decision, but I am open-minded to the reasons to deter accidentally shot, to deter a terrorist nation's attack. But I don't yet feel that I have enough information at my disposal to conclude that's what we ought to do. And I think some that were originally out there for it - get a feeling that they are backing off a little bit.

Q: Are you thinking about going that route for cost?

A: I don't know. I mean I don't know what the price is. And again, we are still developing technologies, some of which are very expensive, and some of which are very, very reasonable. And we don't know yet which is going to be the most effective.

Frankly, I don't think - I'm not at the point where I am prepared to say go forward this minute with partial deployment.

Q: How long do you see the development period? Do you have a sense of that?

A: No, but that could change. When any research program, you could have a significant breakthrough. So I can't predict it and I don't think that General Abramson or any others who are handling it can make that prediction.

But where we differ with Governor Dukakis is, he's against the whole thing. I forget the words he called it. I think I used it in the speech today. He is against the whole concept, and I just think he's wrong. America has to stay out there on the front of technological change. He called it a fantasy.

Q: We were struck by the fact that you did not mention S.D.I. in your acceptance speech. Why?

A: Well, there's a lot of you know; we thought about that, and there are just so many subjects that you could mention.

George Bush, Informal Remarks by the Vice President with a Reporter from the New York Times on the Strategic Defense Initiative Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project