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Pentagon speeds up missile defense tests



By Jamie McIntyre
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon said Friday it will increase the frequency of major missile defense tests in hopes of deploying a working system by 2008.

Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Office, told a Pentagon briefing he intends to conduct a major test at least every other month following this weekend's planned intercept test, which is the first in a year.

Kadish said he hopes to have "a major test event" between four and six times a year, including tests of sea-based systems and ground-based interceptors. Each test costs approximately $100 million, but the per-test cost is expected to come down as the number of tests increases.

ON THE SCENE
CNN's Jamie McIntyre discusses the speed up of missile defense tests  
 
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Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's statement on ballistic missile defense  

Pentagon's missile defense program  
 

He also outlined plans to build a series of facilities that would allow the Pentagon to test the various missile defense technologies. Kadish has proposed building a missile defense test facility in Alaska at which 10 interceptor missiles could be based.

Kadish downplayed the significance of a particular test such as the one scheduled Saturday.

"This is one test in a series of tests, and if it succeeds we will gain confidence. If it fails we will learn a lot," Kadish said.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday the Pentagon planned to begin construction next April on sites for new missile defense tests, which could violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.

"As the program develops and the various testing activities mature, one or more aspects will inevitably bump against treaty restrictions and limitations," Wolfowitz said. "Such an event is likely to occur in months, rather than in years."

Wolfowitz said the Bush administration intends to reach a new understanding with Russia in the near future that would address potential questions about the violation of the ABM treaty.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a small group of reporters in his Pentagon office Wednesday the U.S. will "sit down with the Russians in a way that's rational, and professional, and we don't intend to violate the treaty."






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