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DATE=  10/2/97
TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
NUMBER=2-220751
TITLE=U-S LASER TEST (L)
BYLINE=REBECCA MCMENAMIN
DATELINE=PENTAGON
CONTENT=
VOICED AT: 
INTRO:  U-S DEFENSE SECRETARY WILLIAM COHEN HAS GIVEN APPROVAL 
FOR A CONTROVERSIAL EXPERIMENT IN WHICH A GROUND-BASED LASER WILL
BE FIRED AT AN ORBITING U-S AIR FORCE SATELLITE.  REBECCA 
MCMENAMIN REPORTS THAT WHILE THE PENTAGON VIEWS THE TEST AS AN 
OPPORTUNITY TO COLLECT VITAL DATA -- SOME MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, AS
WELL AS ARMS CONTROL ADVOCATES, ARE NOT  PLEASED.
TEXT:  THE LASER EXPERIMENT IS TO BE CONDUCTED WITHIN DAYS, 
WEATHER PERMITTING.  IN WHAT WILL BE THE FIRST TEST OF ITS KIND, 
U-S FORCES IN THE WESTERN STATE OF NEW MEXICO WILL FIRE A 
POWERFUL GROUND-BASED LASER AT A MILITARY SATELLITE ORBITING SOME
400 KILOMETERS UP IN SPACE. 
THEY WILL THEN ANALYZE SENSORS ON THE SPACECRAFT TO DETERMINE THE
EFFECTS OF THE LASER BEAM. DEFENSE OFFICIALS SAY THE  PURPOSE IS 
NOT TO DESTROY THE SATELLITE, BUT TO TEST THE VULNERABILITY OF 
SUCH SPACECRAFT TO LASERS.  THIS INFORMATION COULD BE CRITICAL IN
TIME OF WARFARE, GIVEN THE INCREASING USE OF SPACE PROBES FOR 
COMMUNICATIONS AND SPYING ACTIVITIES.
HOWEVER, CRITICS SAY SUCH A TEST COULD FUEL A NEW ARMS RACE. 
DEMOCRATIC SENATOR TOM HARKIN (OF IOWA) RELEASED A STATEMENT 
CALLING THE EXPERIMENT UNNECESSARY AND PROVOCATIVE.  HE SAYS IT 
WILL HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON ARMS CONTROL EFFORTS.  
CHARLES VICK, A RESEARCH ANALYST WITH "THE FEDERATION OF AMERICAN
SCIENTISTS" BASED IN WASHINGTON, AGREES.
                         // VICK ACT //
         IT'S CERTAINLY A PROVOCATIVE DECISION TO CARRY OUT A 
         TEST OF A WEAPONS SYSTEM THAT IS  NOT  NECESSARILY 
         NEEDED.  IT MAY BE LOOKED AT AS A PROVOCATION BY OTHER 
         NATIONS, CREATING A NEW STRATEGIC ARMS RACE FOR THAT 
         KIND OF CAPABILITY.
                          // END ACT //
BUT A PENTAGON SPOKESMAN, NAVY CAPTAIN MIKE DOUBLEDAY, REJECTS 
SUCH CRITICISM.  HE SAYS THE TEST DOES  NOT VIOLATE ANY 
INTERNATIONAL TREATIES AND THAT IT IS AN IMPORTANT COMPONENT OF 
EFFORTS TO PROTECT AMERICAN SATELLITES.
                       // DOUBLEDAY ACT //
         WE'VE BEEN VERY CLEAR. THIS IS AN EXPERIMENT BEING USED 
         TO REDUCE VULNERABILITY OF U-S SATELLITE SYSTEMS.  IT IS
         A LOGICAL STEP TO TAKE.  WE ARE INTERESTED HERE IN 
         GATHERING DATA WHICH CAN IMPROVE OUR PLANNING FOR 
         PROTECTION OF OUR SATELLITES.
                          // END ACT //
CAPTAIN DOUBLEDAY ADDS THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT IS BECOMING MORE 
RELIANT ON WEAPONS TECHNOLOGIES THAT ARE SATELLITE-BASED SO, IN 
HIS WORDS, IT IS PRUDENT TO MAKE THE SPACE PROBES AS SAFE AS 
POSSIBLE.
                         // REST OPT //
MEANWHILE, THERE IS YET ANOTHER ASPECT TO THE CRITICISM OF THE 
PENTAGON DECISION -- COMING FROM THE COMPANY THAT MANUFACTURED 
THE TARGET SATELLITE, SPECTRUM ASTRO.  COMPANY SPOKESMAN STAN 
DUBYN SAYS ONLY 40 PERCENT OF THE SPACECRAFT'S CAPABILITY HAS 
BEEN EXPLOITED DURING ITS 15 MONTHS IN ORBIT.
                         // DUBYN ACT //
         IT IS SIGNIFICANTLY PREMATURE TO BE PUTTING THIS 
         SPACECRFAT OUT OF COMMISSION AT THIS JUNCTURE.  WE 
         SPECIFICALLY PUT THREE YEARS OF FUEL ON BOARD HOPING WE 
         WOULD GET TO OPERATE THE SPACECRAFT FOR THREE YEARS.  
                          // END ACT //
MR. DUBYN SAYS THERE ARE A NUMBER OF OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES 
AND COMMERCIAL INTERESTS WILLING TO PAY FOR INFORMATION THE 
SATELLITE COULD  STILL PROVIDE.  THIS RANGES FROM DATA ABOUT 
MINERAL AND MINING EXPLORATION, TO TRENDS REGARDING CROPS AND 
FORESTATION, AND EVEN FOREST FIRES AND OIL SLICKS. (SIGNED)
NEB/RJM/RRM
02-Oct-97 4:46 PM EDT (2046 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America
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