- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 26, 2002

The Pentagon is rapidly moving ahead with deploying a new defense system in the next few years that can knock out enemy missiles, the general in charge of the program said yesterday.

"Our goal is very simple: to defend against limited long-range threats and robustly against shorter-range threats," Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish said in discussing the $48 billion development program.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, the Senate debated an amendment that would restore to a defense-spending bill $800 million that was cut from the missile-defense program. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said he would recommend a presidential veto if the funding cut is not restored.

The debate has stalled final action on the $393 billion defense bill, which includes more than $7.5 billion for missile defense for fiscal 2003.

"Now is not the time to send a signal that we are lessening our resolve to defend this nation from all known threats," said Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Gen. Kadish briefed reporters on what he called "very aggressive" plans for a layered missile-defense system that can knock out missiles shortly after launch, in space and as they near targets on the ground.

Such a comprehensive system allows for "multiple shots at each phase" of a missile's flight, he said.

"And that's what we're trying to do with our program today is build this layered system as best we know how to do and as quickly as we could do it against all ranges of threats," Gen. Kadish said.

Recent testing successes using ship-based missile-defense interceptors indicated that a limited, emergency system could be deployed in the next several years, he said.

"We're going to work as hard as we can to deploy our systems as soon as possible," Gen. Kadish said. "And I can't tell you the exact date right now, but we're heading somewhere in the mid-decade time frame, in the four-to-six-to-eight-year time frame of this decade."

Gen. Kadish declined to say a basic missile-defense system could be deployed by 2004. "We walk before we run. You don't try to make a Cadillac when you basically have the knowledge for a Model T," he said.

Intelligence estimates have said North Korea is developing long-range missiles and could have one with enough range to hit the United States by 2004.

Other long-range missile threats are expected by some to emerge in the coming years from Iran, Iraq and Libya, in addition to the threat of attack posed by Russian and Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Asked about the North Korean missile threat, Gen. Kadish said, "We will have a test bed by 2004 that could have some emergency capability against long-range threats from North Korea."

Other advanced missile-defense systems being worked on include a laser mounted in a Boeing 747, a space-based laser gun and a "hit-to-kill" weapon that would hit missiles shortly after launch.

"And those technologies are being aggressively pursued, although not with a lot of money in our budget allocation this year," Gen. Kadish said. "But we'll be ramping up rather quickly."

The general declined to say how much it will cost to deploy a national missile defense and said that until the system is clearly defined, it will be very hard to estimate. However, he noted that the system will be very expensive.

Gen. Kadish said the Pentagon plan calls for deploying a missile-defense system "as quickly as possible" and then improving the system over time with features that will be able to defeat foreign efforts to thwart the system.


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