Index

DATE=7/12/2000 TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP TITLE=ANOTHER ANTI-MISSILE TEST FAILS NUMBER=6-11919 BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE DATELINE=WASHINGTON EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS TELEPHONE=619-3335 INTERNET=YES CONTENT= INTRO: The United States continues to debate building a National Missile Defense System, but the latest test firing of a missile designed to knock down an aggressor missile failed. This latest failure has increased the intensity of debate as to whether President Clinton should order a go-ahead of the entire system. A group of Nobel laureates have signed a declaration that the system cannot work and should be abandoned while many in Congress insist that more tests are needed to produce a working system. The proponents add the system is desperately needed to head off the terrible destruction possible if even a few nuclear missiles fired from hostile nations hit the U-S. We get a sampling of the new round of editorials generated by this latest test now from __________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup. TEXT: The National Missile Defense System or N-M-D for short is a scaled-down version of a program first suggested by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, and quickly dubbed "Star Wars" by the media. It was to be a missile shield over the country that could repel a full-blown intercontinental missile attack. Millions of dollars were spent on preliminary science, but the system was never built. Now, with the Soviet Union dissolved, the new threat is perceived to be a limited missile attack from such hostile states as North Korea, Iraq or someday, even Libya. And this latest, scaled-down system, involving an Alaskan coastal radar, and several anti-missile sites is being hotly contested. We begin with the Detroit [Michigan] Free Press. VOICE: The failure of a 40-year-old technology that doomed last weekend's 100-million dollar test of the National Missile Defense System underscores just how many variables are involved here. If the Pentagon and its defense contractors can't guarantee that the old equipment works, how secure are Americans supposed to feel about the new stuff? What's more, how emboldened will so-called rogue states be about trying to sneak a ballistic missile through the system? The Pentagon plans to press forward with another test in October or early November, determined to have this shield in place by two-thousand-five. The all-ahead-full mentality seems foolish, if not downright reckless. TEXT: The Boston Globe also feels the system is unworkable at present, and it complains that the test was unfair to begin with, in favor of the defender missile. VOICE: If taxpayers are being asked to spend 60- billion dollars or more on a national missile defense that may not be able to defend the nation against intercontinental ballistic missiles, then aren't proponents of the unworkable system degrading the nation's defense? This question arises following the mechanical failure of last week's missile interceptor test. ... the test was rigged; [Editors: "fixed"] even if it had succeeded, it would have proved nothing. Before heedless politicians and defense contractors stampede Americans into paying for a system that may make the nation less secure, the capabilities of the proposed system should be evaluated by distinguished scientists who are truly independent. TEXT: Coming to the missile's defense is The New York Post, which complains: VOICE: In the short term, it's hard to describe Saturday's test as anything other than a fiasco. Not only did the interceptor not work properly, neither did the target. Back to the drawing board? Maybe. Maybe not. The political opposition to the development of any sort of a ballistic-missile defense system is formidable. The usual domestic suspects - - lefty Democrats, most of the media and the National Council of Churches - - are against it. Come the end of the day, however, the United States will proceed with a missile shield, or not - - depending on its own best interests. At least, we hope so. ... There's no reason to believe that America can't develop and deploy an effective - - if limited - - anti- ballistic-missile. TEXT: For the Los Angeles Times however, this latest failure sends a clear message that: VOICE: It's time to forget about the arbitrary deadline set for starting work on this hugely expensive and technologically dubious project ... and reassess whether it would be the most effective way to counter potential missile threats from hostile states. TEXT: Adds Nebraska's Omaha World-Herald: "Mr. President, this important and costly device plainly needs more work. Either Governor Bush or Vice President Gore, as the next president, is more than capable of making the decision." However Florida's Times-Union in Jacksonville comes to the effort's defense suggesting: VOICE: The "failure" of a missile defense system test is no reason to give up the program. The purpose of a test is to find out if something is wrong, so it can be fixed. ... Planners didn't expect the system to work perfectly at first. That is why they planned so many tests. If it's still failing regularly in the later stages of the experimentation, then there will be cause for concern - - but not now. TEXT: And in Hawaii, within the theoretical range of North Korea's still-unfired Taepo Dong Two missile, [Editors: maximum estimated range 5954 kilometers] The Honolulu Star-Bulletin says: "President Clinton should authorize continuing the system's development until a decision is made on its effectiveness," adding: VOICE: Yes, this project is horribly expensive. But leaving the nation vulnerable to missile attack could be far more costly. Senator Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, noted that congress has authorized some 16 more tests. "Too much has been made of this one test over the weekend, said [Senator] Lieberman, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. ... the latest failure isn't conclusive and shouldn't precipitate a decision to abandon the project. TEXT: Back in the Midwest, however, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is not convinced. VOICE: Following last week's spectacular failure of a missile defense test rigged for success, President Bill Clinton must decide whether to spend 60-billion to begin building a limited system that we may not need and that shows no signs of working if we did. The second test failure, against one partial success, began with a two-hour delay due to a battery malfunction (imagine that happening during a real attack.) Then the missile interceptor tumbled off course and the kill vehicle failed to separate from its booster. At this point, it would seem that the only thing this flying technological turkey [Editors: U-S slang for "a failure"] has going for it is that Mr. Clinton could present its existence as evidence that Democrats - - specifically the vice President - are not soft on defense. TEXT: On that somewhat sarcastic note, we conclude this sampling of opinion on the most recent test of a limited Missile Defense System. (Signed) NEB/ANG/PT 12-Jul-2000 15:49 PM EDT (12-Jul-2000 1949 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .