|SLUG: 2-272242 US-Missile defense (L)||DATE:||NOTE NUMBER:|
TITLE=U-S MISSILE DEFENSE (L ONLY)
INTRO: U-S Defense officials say development of a controversial missile defense system is moving forward. More from V-O-A Pentagon Correspondent Alex Belida at the Pentagon.
TEXT: A Pentagon spokesman says President Bush's desire for a missile defense system for the United States and possibly for its allies is "very unambiguous."
But the spokesman, Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, says the specific type of system Mr. Bush favors is, in the spokesman's words, "still a work in progress."
Still, he says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has already met three times with Air Force General Ronald Kadish, head of the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.
Admiral Quigley says even though other major defense programs are under review, Mr. Rumsfeld's instructions to the General have been clear.
His guidance to General Kadish at this point is: press on.
Pentagon officials say the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization is doing just that - planning a test sometime in the next six weeks to two months of the rocket booster for the so-called "kill vehicle" component of the system.
This interceptor, guided by sophisticated radars, is the device intended to destroy an incoming missile launched at the United States. Initial projections foresee 100 such interceptors based in Alaska.
The project has drawn widespread criticism - not only from skeptics who say it won't work but from nations like Russia who worry that having a missile shield could tempt the United States into considering a pre-emptive first-strike.
But U-S officials say the proposed system should not be viewed as a threat because of its limited scope. They say it is intended only to protect against a very limited attack by a rogue state or an accidental missile launch. (Signed)