At its April meeting, the Council of the APS approved a statement on issues relating to the technical feasibility and deployment of the proposed National Missile Defense (NMD) program. President Clinton is scheduled to make a decision by this October as to whether to begin deployment of such a program, although a decision could be made as early as August. Some members of Congress, of both parties, have urged the President to defer a decision until the next administration. The text of the statement follows.
"The United States should not make a deployment decision relative to the planned National Missile Defense (NMD) system unless that system is shown-through analysis and through intercept tests to be effective against the types of offensive countermeasures that an attacker could reasonably be expected to deploy with its long-range missiles. The planned NMD system is intended to defend U.S. territory against tens of long-range ballistic missiles carrying biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. The ability of the NMD system to deal with countermeasures is a key factor in determining whether the system will be able to defend against the threats it is intended to meet.
"A decision on whether or not to deploy the NMD is scheduled for the next few months. The tests that have been conducted or are planned for the period fall far short of those required to provide confidence in the 'technical feasibility' called for in last year's NMD deployment legislation.
"This statement implies no APS position with respect to the wisdom of national missile defense deployment and concerns itself solely with its technical viability."
Believing that broad-based funding for physics research is critical to preserving national competitiveness, the APS Council also approved a statement to that effect at its April meeting, singling out the Department of Energy (DOE) for particular support. The statement reads:
"The Council of the American Physical Society applauds and strongly supports the significant funding increases for science contained in the President's FY2001 budget.
"The nation's research in physics is broadly supported through several agencies, principally DOE, NSF, NASA, and DOD. The ability of U.S. physics to continue contributing to the nation's economic growth and its national security depends critically on adequate funding for all these agencies.
"The DOE provides the majority of the funding for a wide range of basic research in the physical sciences. Therefore, the Council is particularly concerned that the DOE's science funding remain healthy.
"The DOE Office of Science is responsible for the construction and operation of most major facilities in particle and nuclear physics, and for many other facilities needed in multidisciplinary research programs relevant to materials sciences, energy sciences, biology, and medicine. These efforts have been instrumental in the success of important national scientific programs.
"The Council urges, therefore, that the DOE share fully, in FY2001 and in subsequent years, in the funding increases aimed at maintaining the health of the U.S. scientific enterprise. Present concerns regarding management and security issues should not obscure the need for sustaining and enhancing the essential DOE-supported science programs."
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Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette