Pentagon officials, it seems, could use some remedial mathematics instruction. The Pentagon's timetable for building a national missile shield to protect Americans against a handful of incoming enemy missiles keeps slipping. In each of the past three years, Defense officials have said they were six years away from operating a scaled-down, ground-based "Star Wars" system that could cost up to $10 billion.

Back in 1995, then Defense Secretary WILLIAM PERRY said building the shield would take three years of research and development and another three of construction. The shield, he vowed, "will be ready for production in three years and, if...

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