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DEFENSE DEPARTMENT PLANS TO SPEND $90 BILLION ON SDI

The Defense Department plans to spend about $90 billion over the next 15 years on the Strategic Defense Initiative, congressional investigators said Friday.

The General Accounting Office, which based its results on the department's estimates, also found that spending on the program will peak between fiscal 1995 and fiscal 2000 at about $7 billion a year.The overall costs take into account the Bush administration's scaled-down version of SDI, commonly known as Star Wars, but does not account for the limited defense system Congress and the Pentagon agreed upon last year.

Maj. Mike Doble, a spokesman for the SDI organization, said Friday the department had not seen the GAO report and would have no comment.

Spending on SDI peaks at $6.97 billion in fiscal 2000 with $2.7 billion requested for technology, the report said.

In comparison, the Bush administration has requested $5.4 billion for SDI in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. This year, the SDI budget totals $4.1 billion.

Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wis., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, requested the GAO study that will provide guidance for members of Congress as they work on the defense budget.

The report comes as a senior Defense Department official said the Pentagon will not meet the 1996 target date set by Congress last year for deploying the first non-nuclear defense against long-range ballistic missiles.

Maj. Gen. Malcolm R. O'Neill, deputy director of the Pentagon office that runs the Strategic Defense Initiative, blamed the delay on congressional cuts in nearly every SDI budget since 1985.

The deployment date could slip even beyond 1997 unless Congress grants the full amount of SDI funds requested by the Bush administration in each of the coming four years, O'Neill said.