DATE=7/8/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=ANTI-MISSILE TEST UPDATE (L) NUMBER=2-264190 BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=PENTAGON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Pentagon Officials say the U-S National Missile Defense system missed its target in a critical test Saturday Morning. The failure may give new ammunition to critics who say the 60-billion dollar system won't work. V-O-A's Jim Randle reports. TEXT: Frustrated scientists say the problem came in what they thought was a tried-and-true piece of equipment - the booster rocket. The head of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, General Ronald Kadish, says something went wrong with the signal that was supposed to tell the rocket to release the `kill vehicle.' The kill vehicle is the spacecraft that is supposed to track a warhead, and then destroy it by running into it. But, stuck to the booster, it never got anywhere close to the target, and eventually fell into the sea. /// Kadish act /// What it tells me is we have more engineering work to do. And as we've said all along, this is a very difficult, challenging job, this is rocket science. /// end act /// A majority of members of the U-S Congress say the system is needed to counter North Korean missiles that may be capable of hitting the United States by the year 2005. Missile defense supporters say the threat of massive U-S nuclear retaliation might not be enough to persuade leaders in North Korea or other "states of concern" not to strike the United States. Engineers say in order to meet the 2005 deadline, decisions must be made in a few months, and construction must get under way early next year. President Clinton says he will use information from this test to decide if the United States should begin construction. Whoever is elected in November to succeed Mr. Clinton will get information from further tests and updated assessments of the threat from North Korea and other nations to decide if the program should continue. The missile defense plan prompted criticism from peace groups, Nobel Prize-winning scientists and the governments of Russia and China. Moscow says the missile defense system could ignite a new, expensive and dangerous arms race. (Signed). NEB/JR/PLM 08-Jul-2000 04:05 AM EDT (08-Jul-2000 0805 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .