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They Were So Close: The Airborne Laser program is on track for the first intercept test against an in-flight ballistic missile in August 2009, but last week’s proposal by House authorizers to cut $400 million from it in the 2008 defense authorization bill “would cripple the program,” Boeing program director Greg Hyslop said yesterday. Hyslop and Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin officials told reporters via conference call that they could not assess what would become of the program if it were to lose the $400 million. President Bush’s budget request called for $548 million for ABL in 2008. Hyslop said it would be “imprudent” for Congress to cut the program’s funding now. (Just last month Missile Defense Agency chief Lt. Gen. Trey Obering said ABL was making its “knowledge” points.) “ABL technical risk has been substantially reduced as a result of previous investments by both Democratic and Republican Administrations and Congressional guidance,” he said. He also noted that they have a factual record on the program’s progress and capabilities for lawmakers and plan to “engage with” Congressional committees to continue the progress because “we are on the verge of being able to demonstrate this capability.”