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Pat on the Back for ABL Team: Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) issued a press release last week praising the Missile Defense Agency and its industry partners on the latest Airborne Laser test. He said, "The ABL continues to make history," in this case, when its lasers, compensating for atmospheric conditions, tracked a boosting missile and remained "locked on target for an extended period of time." He called ABL's progress "more important than ever" given North Korea's continuing provocative stance. Defense Secretary Robert Gates relegated the ABL program to a research and development effort only, telling Congress no defense official believes its current form is a viable concept. Responding to Brownback's praise, Mike Rinn, Boeing vice president and ABL program director, issued a June 12 statement: "This is the first time in history anyone has actively tracked a boosting missile with a laser while closing atmospheric compensation loops. This was done at significant ranges and for many times longer than would be required to kill the missile had the high-energy laser been used." He added that more tests would "fine-tune the pointing accuracy and performance." Rinn called the June 6 test "a major step toward conducting this year's missile-intercept test."