Bigger Bucks for Smarter Bombs

Weapons research gets carte blanche, and stirs controversy

Missile-guidance computer programs so complex that they can be written and tested only by other computer programs. A laser weapon that can release death rays in the nanoseconds before it is obliterated by its own power source, an atom bomb. A jet fighter that can understand the pilot's spoken commands.

Pentagon visionaries, rarely idle, are especially busy these days dreaming up such futuristic tools of war. Research and development has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Reagan defense buildup: the Administration has nearly doubled military R. and D. spending since 1981, and seeks another 22% hike, to $39.4 billion,...

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