- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

A leading conservative group yesterday praised the Bush administration's successful missile-defense test, saying it shows that the technology is available to build a national shield against nuclear attacks from rogue nations.
The U.S. military announced it completed its third successful missile-defense test on Monday, knocking a dummy warhead out of space more than 100 miles over the South Pacific.
Monday night's "U.S. missile test is part of President Bush's stated goal of building a missile-defense shield to protect against the launch of ballistic missiles from rogue nations, such as North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria and terror groups who either have weapons of mass destruction and can attack the United States, or have the ability to produce or acquire them and the appropriate launch capability," David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said in a statement yesterday.
"The success of [Mondays] test, when combined with the other two successful tests, reconfirm the viability of comprehensive missile defense, which has taken on a new meaning of urgency since the attacks of September 11th."
The successful test means the Pentagon can move on to more complex trials of the missile-defense system, which the Pentagon says is necessary "to deter the growing threat of ballistic missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction."
However, many liberal Democrat critics say the tests are too expensive and tightly rigged, arguing that long-range missiles are a minor threat. Supporters of missile defense, including President Bush, say rogue nations could develop and target long-range missiles at the United States.
An interceptor missile launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands collided with the dummy warhead at about 10:30 p.m. EST, the military said. The test was similar to a successful one in July.
Poor weather and high winds had blocked the test launch on Saturday and Sunday and delayed Monday's missile launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., for nearly an hour.
A modified Minuteman II missile took off from Vandenberg at 9:59 p.m. EST, the military said. Instead of explosives, its warhead carried sensors to track its progress during the test.
The dummy warhead also carried a large balloon to be jettisoned in an attempt to trick the interceptor a tactic that the interceptor in this test successfully ignored.
After 22 minutes, the interceptor missile was launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific. That missile carried a "kill vehicle" that homed in on the dummy warhead to collide at 15,000 mph and obliterate it in space.
Monday's test was the fifth in the missile-defense program. Two out of the four previous tests have been successful. Each test costs about $100 million.
Critics charge that because the interceptor got precise location information from the dummy warhead before its launch, it is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, but it is unreliable and ineffective as well.
This is disputed by missile-defense supporters, who say that those opposed to the administration's proposal are seeking to use the issue for partisan advantage and are ignoring that the successful tests prove the technology works.
"The three successful tests underscore the fallacy of the liberals' argument that the necessary technology doesn't work or exist. These partisans would rather attack the president's policy than ensure the safety and security of Americans," Mr. Keene said.
He added: "This is not the time for political posturing. It's time to protect America."
This article is based in part on wire service reports

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