* GAO warns of potential cost overruns, delays
* US cited Iran threat in rollout of missile defense plan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack
Obama's planned missile defense system for Europe could prove
unreliable and risks delays and cost over-runs, congressional
investigators said in a new report.
The United States announced plans last year to integrate
sea- and land-based missile defenses in Europe, a program
referred to as the "European Phased Adaptive Approach."
U.S. anti-ballistic missile systems are meant to cover
Europe by around 2018, and NATO allies in Europe agreed last
month to bolster the missile shield.
But the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the
investigative arm of Congress, warned in a report dated Tuesday
that there was limited visibility into the costs and timetable
for the program.
It warned that one of the consequences could be "going into
production before fully demonstrating system performance,
leading to rework, cost increases, delays, and uncertainties
about delivered capabilities."
Key components for the shield are updated Raytheon Co
Standard Missile-3 missile interceptors and Lockheed Martin
Corp's Aegis weapons system.
The United States has already spent more than $10 billion a
year on a range of missile defense programs in recent years,
but critics say those programs are still far from reliable.
A test of the sole U.S. defense against long-range
ballistic missiles failed last week, the second failure in a
row involving the system managed by Boeing Co .
The miss brought the so-called ground-based midcourse
defense's batting record to eight intercepts out of 15 tries,
as reckoned by the Missile Defense Agency.
The United States says its European missile defense efforts
are designed to defend against Iranian short- and medium-range
missiles that could be tipped with chemical, biological or
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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