DATE=5/18/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=MISSILE DEFENSE (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-262540 BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Top Pentagon officials say it is premature to order an outside investigation of a controversial U-S missile defense program. A prominent critic of Washington's efforts to build a system to shoot down attacking ballistic missiles says a key part of the scheme does not work and never will. V-O-A's Jim Randle reports. TEXT: The critic is a professor of science and national security studies at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a letter to White House officials, Professor Theodore Postol says contractors working for the Pentagon ignored test results that showed the system could not tell the difference between warheads and simple decoys designed to fool a key sensor in space. Telling the difference is crucial because the proposed system's small number of missiles could be quickly exhausted if they are fired at harmless fakes instead of deadly warheads. Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon says the military's experts are carefully reviewing Professor Postol's allegations. Mr. Bacon says until that process is finished, it is too early to ask an outside panel of experts to review allegations that flight test data was presented dishonestly. Mr. Bacon also says since that test, a new company has been chosen to build the interceptors and they are equipped with better computer programs and improved tools for finding targets. /// Bacon Act /// The Raytheon (new) interceptor has a different, more advanced infrared sensor and ... it also has an optical sensor. So it has two ways to acquire (find) a target. Optically, through a visual sensor and infrared which senses heat. /// End Act /// Officials say the next flight test is set for the end of June or the beginning of July, when the U-S military will once again fire a dummy missile warhead into space and once again try to track it, find it, and knock it down with what amounts to a smart bullet -- streaking along a couple hundred kilometers above the earth. Defense Secretary William Cohen says he will use information from this test to make a recommendation to the president to build or scrap the national missile defense. The program is strongly supported by the Republican Party majority in Congress, and adamantly opposed by officials in Beijing and Moscow. (SIGNED) NEB/JR/JP 18-May-2000 16:35 PM EDT (18-May-2000 2035 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .