PENTAGON officials have announced a scaled-back ``star wars'' missile-defense program -- cut in scope and cost -- that would rely more heavily on ground-based interceptor rockets against limited attacks. Henry Cooper, head of the Strategic Defense Initiative, and the Pentagon's chief of international-security programs, Steve Hadley, said Tuesday the decision to shift SDI's focus was made following an analysis of the increased threat posed by ballistic-missile proliferation and the decreased threat of either a conventional or nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
While they went to great lengths to say they were not exploiting the success of the Patriot missile against Iraqi Scud missiles in a bid to win support for the redirected program, they noted that the Patriot is being upgraded to hit more distant targets and that space-based interceptors could hit Scuds when they are briefly outside the atmosphere.
The first phase of a missile defense was first estimated to cost about $148 billion, but Cooper and Hadley said their estimates of a scaled-back system now total $41 billion, some $9 billion of it for theater defenses and $32 billion for strategic defenses, with $10 billion of that for hitting missiles in their boost phase.
Some of the estimated $24 billion spent on SDI so far is included within the $41 billion estimate, but SDI officials were not sure Tuesday just how much was applicable to the Global Protection against Limited Strikes (GPALS) system - the new term for the program.