The Rev. Al Sharpton formally announced Monday his decision to form an exploratory committee for a potential 2004 presidential bid. 

The minister and long-time activist made the announcement at a press conference in Washington.   

"I've asked Dr. Cornell West of Harvard University to convene an exploratory committee," Sharpton said.  The author of the book Race Matters, West was affiliated with former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley's bid for the Democratic nomination in 2000.

Sharpton also lashed out at leaders in the Democratic Party that he said are drifting "further and further to the right."

As a guest on Fox News Sunday, Sharpton touched on several issues he might address as a candidate.

Regarding missile defense, Sharpton said he sees "no real threat to American security" that requires a buildup of the nation's defenses. 

"We are going forward with situations when they are harmful to the people involved to build up to take care of some enemy that is not there, some threat that does not exist," Sharpton said.

He added that his defense views were partly motivated by U.S. Navy training exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. On Friday, he ended a 90-day federal prison sentence for trespassing there to protest naval bombardment.

Asked whether he thought the United States should have a global strategy based on the ability to fight one war or two simultaneously, Sharpton replied:

"In a time that we no longer have a Cold War, there is no real threat to American security. I think the question is, what is this obsession that we are seeing that comes out of Washington where we are gearing up toward a threat that is not there, towards some real fantasy that is looming?"

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently said the United States would reassess its long-standing military policy based on the ability to fight two wars at the same time.

Sharpton said in May that he was considering a run in the Democratic primary.

After running for U.S. Senate in New York in 1994 and coming in third in a four-person primary, Sharpton also run unsuccessfully for mayor in 1997.

The Associated Press contributed to this report