Clinton Delays National Missile Defense
President Clinton announced in a Sept. 1 speech at Georgetown University in Washington that questions regarding the technical merits of the national missile defense system preclude its deployment under this administration. "I simply cannot conclude, with the information that I have today, that we have enough confidence in the technology, and the operational effectiveness of the entire ... system, to move forward to deployment," he said. The decision followed another failed test of a mock-up of the kinetic system July 7.
Clinton's decision to continue testing, but not to be held to a congressional timetable, echoes the position of the Department of Defense. "We made a major change philosophically; namely, to be event-driven rather than schedule-driven," said Jacques Gansler, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, at a June 20 news briefing. Gansler noted, however, that he saw no technical problems at that time that would prevent deployment of the system by 2005, as recommended.
Nevertheless, the move may prevent the opening of bids by contractors to construct an X-band radar station on the island of Shemya in the Aleutians. Gansler said the construction of the station must begin in the summer of 2001 to meet the 2005 date. The delays may force the national missile defense system to justify its performance record against competing, photonics-based systems such as the space-based laser, which is scheduled to begin testing at the end of the decade.
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