Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cohen Likely to Recommend Approval of Missile System Construction Would Begin Next Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cohen Likely to Recommend Approval of Missile System Construction Would Begin Next Year

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary William Cohen is expected to recommend by the end of this week that President Clinton approve limited steps to begin construction of a national missile defense system, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

Cohen has not yet made a formal decision and is scheduled to meet later this week with his senior advisers to shape his recommendation to Clinton. But an official familiar with recent Pentagon discussions said that those advisers -- Deputy Defense Secretary Rudy de Leon, Undersecretary for Acquisition Jacques Gansler, and policy officials Walter Slocombe and James Bodner -- generally agree that the president should approve letting contracts this winter in order to keep alive the possibility of beginning construction of the system next year.

A five-hour-long meeting was held Friday at the Pentagon at which most of the technological issues about the program were addressed, an official said.

The "limited green light" recommendation would postpone into the next administration the major decision about whether to go forward with actually building a missile defense system. "My sense is that this is the consensus everybody's come down to," the official said. "I think everybody (involved in the Pentagon discussions) agrees that this makes sense."

Separately, the Pentagon has concluded that the high-profile test of the missile-interceptor system on July 7 failed because a 10-year-old circuit board on a booster did not operate properly. When the aging board did not convey crucial data, the interceptor system's "kill vehicle" failed to separate from a booster rocket, and the rocket instead tumbled out of control, making the $100 million test an embarrassing failure.

The Pentagon is expected to formally disclose that finding on Thursday.

Two of three flight tests of the missile system have failed.

Cohen's recommendation, which actually will be delivered to national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, is likely to be the single biggest factor in the president's consideration of missile defense. …

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