WASHINGTON - The Pentagon announced a multibillion-dollar contract with the Boeing Co. on Friday to keep work going into the next administration on a national missile defense system.
Although no decision has been made whether the United States will deploy such a system, President Clinton said this year that testing and development should continue until the next administration makes a decision.
The contract is valued $6 billion for work from January 2001 through September 2007, and if additional work is required past that it could be worth up to $13 billion.
President-elect Bush has said he supports building an anti-missile shield to protect the United States.
''This will ensure that the Bush administration has the flexibility to structure the program to meet its requirements,'' said a Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Rick Lehner.
The initial contract for Boeing expires in April 2001, and enough money remained only for two more tests, Lehner said.
''We don't want to have an interruption in the test program,'' he said.
Clinton said Sept. 1 that he was putting off deployment in part because of doubts about the technical feasibility of a system to shoot down enemy missiles.
Pentagon brass believe an effective defense against ballistic missile attack on the United States can be built, but they've had limited success with five tests done so far.
In two of three interception tests, prototype interceptor rockets failed to hit their target in space.