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A method for efficiently generating a rational model of a wide-sense stationary time series is presented. In this method the autoregressive parameters associated with an ARMA model consisting of q zeros and p poles are optimally chosen with the selection being based on a finite set of time series observations. This selection is made so that a set of Yule-Walker equation approximations are ``best'' satisfied. The resultant autoregressive parameter estimates have the desired statistical feature of being unbiased and consistent. This estimation method has been found to provide a modeling performance which typically equals or exceeds that of contemporary alternatives. Moreover, this method is amenable to a computationally efficient adaptive solution procedure. The autoregressive parameters characterizing the resultant ARMA model estimate can serve the role of decision variables in pattern classification schemes. For example, these parameters can be utilized in determining whether or not a member(s) of a given signal class is contained within a noise corrupted measurement signal. This approach has been found to be particularly effective in Doppler radar and array processing applications in which one is looking for the presence of spectral lines (i.e., sinusoids) in the measurement signal.