Senior Pentagon officials recommended that Acting Defense Secretary William Taft let pass a Wednesday deadline for submitting a report to Congress on a limited strategic missile defense.
Instead, the officials argued Tuesday that Taft should tell Congress he will place the required report on the Accidental Launch Protection System, or ALPS, into President Bush's overall 90-day national security review, one of the officials said.By late Tuesday, Taft had not decided whether to withhold the report on a scaled down version of the Strategic Defense Initiative or forward it to Congress.
The Pentagon also appeared likely to miss a second congressional deadline for submitting updated cost estimates on the radar-evading B-2 Stealth bomber.
The Defense Department was conducting business on a day-to-day basis without a new defense secretary, as Bush tried to persuade senators to vote for his controversial and embattled nominee, former Sen. John Tower.
If no Pentagon action were taken Wednesday, it would become the third congressional deadline missed on a military matter since Bush took office Jan. 20.
The president postponed a decision due Feb. 15 that was basically a choice between the 10-warhead MX or the single-warhead Midgetman missile to modernize the land leg of America's nuclear triad.
The White House said the MX-Midgetman issue would be decided in a 90-day national security review being conducted by security adviser Brent Scowcroft, Secretary of State James Baker and the defense secretary.