Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson plans to resign as head of the embattled "Star Wars" program because a new Administration will have "different ideas" about a space defense system, the Pentagon said today.
Spokesman Dan Howard said Abrahamson, who has directed the Strategic Defense Initiative program since its start in 1983, will continue as its director until Feb. 1, 1989, when he will retire from the Air Force.
Howard said he did not know about the retirement until two weeks ago, when he talked with Abrahamson.
In his July 26 memo to Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci, Abrahamson said: "A new Administration will undoubtedly have different ideas or approaches to SDI. Therefore, I reluctantly have concluded that the program will best be served by allowing new leadership to represent new policy and direction."
Rep. Jim Courter (R-N.J.), a strong advocate of the anti-missile research program, termed Abrahamson "the best. The best."
'The Best There Is'
"He is probably the most professional person I've ever seen who ran a major program. He is fair, attentive, kind, respectful of members. He didn't give us any bull. He's the best there is," said Courter, who noted that while SDI opponents may have disagreed with Abrahamson, they generally gave him high marks as a straightforward, direct witness before congressional panels.
Congress has been increasingly skeptical about the effectiveness and cost of a space defense system. It cut the Reagan Administration's original $4.9-billion SDI request for 1989 to $4.1 billion. The cut played a part in President Reagan's veto of the defense bill.
Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis has said he would cut SDI to a $1-billion level and would support more research.