Experts: Center won't affect NMD

Experts say they view the agreement to build the early-warning architecture

as an important step to improve nuclear safety, but they downplay the impact

the new center could have on the U.S. decision to field a limited national

missile defense (NMD) system.

The United States has been studying the technical aspects of deploying

a missile defense system since the Reagan administration. NMD would consist

of a series of networked ground-based radar systems and early-warning satellites

designed to detect the launch of an intercontinental nuclear missile. President

Clinton plans to decide whether to move forward with the system this fall.

John Pike, a defense analyst at the Federation of American Scientists,

said the data exchange effort is completely separate from NMD.

"It's certainly intended to reduce the probability" of miscalculation,

but it is "totally unrelated" to the current NMD program, Pike said.

"The NMD program is intended to encounter a handful of missiles launched

from a North Korea or an Iran, not up to a thousand missiles from Russia,"

he said. "That [type of] system is not one that is currently under discussion."

Retired Army Lt. Col. Stephen McCormick, now a spokesperson for the

NMD think tank High Frontier, said although the new center will not have

any effect on NMD, it is critically needed to reduce the risk of accidental

launches.

"This is an effort to avoid what happened in 1995, when a Norwegian

weather rocket scared the hell out of [the Russians] and convinced them

it was from a U.S. submarine," McCormick said. "[We] need this center."

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