WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Les Aspin on Thursday denied allegations that the Pentagon once rigged missile tests for the "Star Wars" program, but he pledged to give Congress a full appraisal of future weapons tests.
"I guarantee that while I am here, Defense Department tests will be conducted honestly and reported honestly," Aspin said.
He made his comments while releasing the Pentagon's findings about a series of 1984 missile experiments that allegedly were rigged to deceive the former Soviet Union about U.S. weapons capability and perhaps to influence congressional decisions on funding for the "Star Wars" program.
He said military technicians developed but never employed a system of deception in the tests to fool the Soviets.
Aspin acknowledged that in one of the 1984 tests, a target missile was artificially heated to make it easier for a heat-seeking missile to locate and destroy. But he said the procedure was designed as a legitimate element of the experiment.
The New York Times, quoting unidentified sources, reported last month that some of the tests were faked or rigged as part of a deliberate effort to deceive the Soviets about U.S. technology. After Congress learned of the successful results, military officials made no attempt to disclose the deception, the sources said.
But Aspin said his review, which included studying related documents and taking testimony from officials who participated in the tests, revealed that "the experiment was not rigged and deception did not take place."
But Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.), dismissed Aspin's findings, saying they were "like a student grading his own papers."
The results left an impression "with Congress and the general public that there (was) a very successful test," said Pryor, whose investigators uncovered allegations of rigged experiments.
He called for a separate review by the General Accounting Office.