David Ignatius's Oct. 12 op-ed does not accurately portray the fiscal 2005 cost for what he called "national missile defense."

The $10.7 billion he cited as the cost to "rush to deploy a system" is actually about $10 billion (recently approved by Congress) and will pay for all missile defense research, development, testing, military construction and acquisition for this fiscal year, with about $1 billion -- or 10 percent -- earmarked for the "national" missile defense being prepared to provide our homeland with an initial capability against a limited long-range missile attack.

The bulk of the 2005 funding is for continued development and testing of missile defenses designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles of short, medium, intermediate or long range during any phase of flight. These systems are designed to protect our homeland, our deployed forces overseas, and our friends and allies. They include the successful Patriot Advanced Capability interceptor and the Aegis sea-based missile defense system.

Even a cursory examination of the line items in the appropriations bill would provide the information necessary for more accurate reporting. Also, one would think that common sense would prevail: The ability to have a weapons system -- any weapons system -- operational in a given year would require the necessary appropriations over several previous years, and this is certainly the case with missile defense.

RICK LEHNER

Communications Director

Missile Defense Agency

Washington