DATE=4/26/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=MISSILE DEFENSE (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-261746 BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=PENTAGON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Defense Secretary William Cohen is questioning a new report that puts the cost of a proposed National Missile Defense (N-M-D) at 60 billion dollars --- roughly double previous estimates. At the same time, the head of a key Senate committee says Washington should consider giving the system away to Russia. V- O-A's Jim Randle reports. TEXT: Technical and economic experts at the Congressional Budget office say it is likely to cost 60 billion dollars over the next 15 years to build and operate a system to protect the United States from even a small number of ballistic missiles. Military scientists and engineers are readying a third major test of the complex system that will help top officials decide whether or not to build it. The system's missile interceptors have hit one target and missed another in the previous two tests. The new C-B-O report gives ammunition to critics of missile defenses who say the system is staggeringly expensive and not likely to work. But Defense Secretary William Cohen tells members of the Senate (Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee) that the report is unfair because it assumes a much more complex and elaborate system than the one envisioned by the Pentagon. /// Cohen act /// The one that appeared in today's news as far as C.B.O. (the Congressional Budget Office) is concerned, they have included 250 missiles and two sites. /// end act /// Mr. Cohen says he will make a recommendation to the president in a few months. He says the decision to build or shelve the system will consider cost as well as the workability of the N-M-D. Russian leaders say the system would violate an agreement limiting defenses against ballistic missiles that has been a key part of arms control efforts. Officials in Moscow say if Washington builds a missile defense system, they may back out of arms control agreements that have cut the number of nuclear warheads in half, reigniting a nuclear arms race. But the Chairman of the Senate committee that oversees the Pentagon's 300-billion dollar annual budget says Moscow might view the system differently if the Americans gave them the technology. Senator Ted Stevens is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. /// Stevens /// I don't know why we wouldn't share N-M-D with them. I would love to see us have a joint session with the Duma (Russian Parliament) to tell them `Let's build it together. They have problems from rogue nations just as we do." /// end act /// Defense Secretary Cohen says there is a `real' and `growing' ballistic missile threat to the United States from North Korea, Iran and Iraq. And he says those missiles are a greater threat to Russia, which is far closer to what he calls to these nations. (Signed) NEB/PT 26-Apr-2000 15:28 PM EDT (26-Apr-2000 1928 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .