Senator Calls For Airline Missile Defense

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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is calling on her colleagues to reignite programs to equip airliners with anti-missile systems. Boxer told The Associated Press in an interview that the Bush administration's apparent abandonment of the initiative is a mistake. "We are being irresponsible by not moving forward on this today," said Boxer. Congress has appropriated more than $200 million for development of suitable systems (that, for instance, don't drop white-hot magnesium on suburbs) and at least two companies say they have systems that work, according to the AP report. However, the Bush administration asked for only $4.9 million for the program in its latest budget, a signal to some that it's been shot down politically. Earlier estimates have pegged the cost of the systems, which use infrared energy or lasers as the decoy to fool the heat-seeking guidance systems on the missiles, at about $1 million per airliner. The cash-strapped airlines have, of course, balked at the expenditure, claiming it's too expensive and unnecessary. Boxer wonders if they're calculating the impact of a missile attack into their equations. "We have a product here that works, and I would just say to the airline industry, they would sing a different tune if one of these missiles were fired, and it hit -- even if it didn't hit -- who is going to go in an airplane?" Boxer said.