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U.S. to Deploy Missile Defense System in 2004

The missile defense package will include “additional Patriot (PAC-3) units and censors based on land, at sea and in space,” the president said in a statement.

According to news reports, the first 10 interceptor missiles will be based at Fort Greeley, Alaska, with an additional 10 expected to be deployed by 2005 or 2006.

Citing the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, Mr. Bush said that the new missile defense program will “add to America’s security and serve as a starting point for improved and expanded capabilities” as new technologies are developed.

“The new strategic challenges of the 21st century require us to think differently, but they also require us to act,” the president said. “The deployment of missile defenses is an essential element of our broader efforts to transform our defense and deterrence policies and capabilities to meet the new threats we face.”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Tuesday he expected the missile defense program would “evolve over a period of time.”

Russia and China have criticized the U.S. decision to create a missile shield. Last year the U.S. withdrew from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, signed with the Soviet Union, which would have barred the U.S. from creating the system.

The president’s announcement comes as a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair confirmed the U.S. has asked the U.K. to use a radar complex in northern England as part of a missile defense system. The British government has not made a decision on the request, which Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon is expected to bring up for discussion in the House of Commons later Tuesday.

Congress has approved some $7.8 billion at the Bush administration’s request for research, development and testing of components for a missile shield.

The U.S. has mounted eight test attempts to shoot down a long-range missile using interceptor technology. The most recent of those trials, conducted last Wednesday, failed to destroy a dummy long-range warhead. Five of the eight tests succeeded.

During his press briefing, Rumsfeld likened the tests to trials of other weapons systems that also experienced setbacks, saying “you learn and gain knowledge by your successes as well as your failures.”

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