WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday that the successful missile defense test last weekend showed how far the United States has come with anti-missile technology that could be installed in Alaska.
The Pentagon plans another 20 intercept tests over the next five years, he said. Some of those could involve missiles launched from Kodiak, and the decommissioned Fort Greely near Delta is considered a leading contender for the main base for operational interceptors.
''These tests are designed to demonstrate that ballistic missile defense is no longer a problem of invention, but rather a challenge of engineering. Future generations will look back on this time and see that we rose to this challenge,'' he said in a videotaped message to a missile defense conference in Huntsville, Ala.
Rumsfeld said the administration is determined to develop technologies to intercept ballistic missiles of various ranges and in various stages of flight.
''The technology to do so is within our grasp,'' he said.
In Saturday's test, a projectile carrying a ''kill vehicle'' -- a 120-pound device with its own propulsion, communications and ability to ''see'' its target with an infrared sensor -- soared into space aboard a rocket and collided with a mock warhead, destroying it by sheer force of impact. It was the fourth such test and the first successful intercept since the first attempt in October 1999.
In testimony Monday on Capitol Hill, Rumsfeld responded to criticism that missile defense is consuming too large a share of the defense budget, which totals $296 billion this year. The budget for missile defense this year is about $5 billion, and President Bush has proposed increasing it to $8.3 billion next year.
''It is a lot of taxpayer money,'' Rumsfeld told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. ''On the other hand, the Defense Department is currently receiving something less than 2 percent of the gross national product of the United States and the missile defense budget is in total less than 2.5 percent of the defense budget.''
Saturday's test cost about $100 million. The next one is scheduled for October.
In his videotaped message, Rumsfeld said no one should doubt that President Bush is determined to deploy a missile defense because he believes it is a vital component of U.S. national security strategy.
''Missile defense will, in the years ahead, become part of a new and comprehensive framework for peace and security that reflects the real threats of the 21st century,'' Rumsfeld said. ''Make no mistake about our commitment to this component of our country's deterrent strategy. Missile defense is needed to protect our people, our allies and our friends against the real and growing threat of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.''
Russia and China are strongly opposed to the Bush approach, which they argue will lead to a new arms race and undermine the arms control regime that was developed during the Cold War.
On the Net:
Ballistic Missile Defense Organization: http://www.acq.osd.mil/bmdo/bmdolink/html/bmdolink.html
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