Wednesday, March 17, 1999

Inouye triumphs:
Senate OKs building
missile defense system

By Pete Pichaske
Phillips News Service


WASHINGTON -- Congress moved a step closer to bringing Hawaii under the shield of a missile defense system today as the Senate, after years of rejecting the notion, voted to build a national system to protect all 50 states.

The 97-3 vote was something of a personal triumph for Sen. Daniel Inouye, who for years lobbied for such a system.

Inouye was co-sponsor of today's measure, which calls for a defense system to be built "as soon as is technologically possible." Last year, he and Sen. Daniel Akaka were among only four Democratic senators to vote for quicker deployment of a system, a measure that failed.

Both Hawaii senators have been moved by concerns that Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to missile threats from rogue nations in Asia, and by the knowledge that existing U.S. policy on missile defenses excludes Hawaii and Alaska. "That's unacceptable to the senator," said Akaka spokesman Paul Cardus.

Skeptics still consider the missile defense system costly, unnecessary and impractical, but today's vote showed many lawmakers have been swayed by technological advances in hostile nations.

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