On Wednesday and Thursday this week, the Missile Defense Agency presented their fiscal year 2016 budget to the oversight of the U.S. Congress. In their respective roles as budget authorizers and appropriators, Members of the House of Representatives and Senate brought the Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), Admiral James Syring to testify.
Between these two hearings, there was not partisan criticism or debate about specific systems as there has been in the past over the President’s MDA budget request for the upcoming fiscal year, which amounts to 8.1 billion for FY2016. There was however, tremendous concern, debate and direct questioning by the Members present on the direct effects the Budget Control Act (BCA), known also as sequestration, would have on our nation’s missile defense capabilities.
When the Budget Control Act goes forward this year, 18% of MDA’s budget for 2016 will
be taken away, a loss of 1.4 billion dollars, decreasing MDA’s $8.1 billion budget to 6.7 billion. With that significant loss of revenue, the Congressman and Senators from both parties in both hearings asked how the upcoming cuts would directly affect the nation’s ability to defend itself and which systems would get priority and which would not.
In these hearings, it was apparent that the ongoing programs of fielding the 44 Ground Based Interceptors (GBI) by the end of 2017 for the defense of the United States and completing the three phases of the European Phased Adaptive Approach defending Europe against Iran were the top priorities for the Missile Defense Agency. Of the 1.4 billion in cuts required by the BCA in 2016, $500 million would come from the cancellation of the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) and the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) for the GBI. The remaining 900 million in cuts were not identified, but would most likely be taken out of discrimination modernization programs, a significant reduction of testing for all systems and a lower production in THAAD and SM-3 IB interceptors.
Of great concern was the defense of our nation against North Korea and Iran by not having the discrimination capability that both a long-range radar and a new Kill Vehicle would provide. These new systems would provide the most reliability and confidence to the upcoming 44 GBIs deployed in 2017 for the defense of our nation after their deployment in the 2019 timeframe. Reducing the amount of interceptors launched against a single incoming missile and ensuring high reliability of that intercept is vital against a growing and increasingly sophisticated North Korean threat. “The system will be overmatched,” stated by Vice Admiral Syring in testimony if these two critical discrimination programs are forced to an end.
There was hope in the House hearing on Missile Defense yesterday as this situation unfolded, both Republican and Democrat moved towards getting the MDA’s 18% cut put into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding to shield it from the BCA.
It is both the President and the United States Congress that are responsible for the 2016 budget and they too both are responsible for the defense of the United States homeland and its people. It is upon them to resolve the BCA and pass the President’s Budget.
Watch the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Missile Defense Hearing
Enclosed below are some key quotes from the hearings
“You know, as I look at threats to the homeland, I look at threats from the most likely to the most dangerous and right there in the middle of this is this critical mission set of protecting the homeland from ballistic missile defense, particularly the threats from North Korea and Iran. But as I look at the threats the most likely and the most dangerous that’s getting ready to confront us I think its sequestration and the impacts on my ability across all of my mission sets but particularly in this particular case to defend the homeland. Sequestration when it comes for the services it’s the quickest way to hollow a force out, they have to take it out of readiness, and they are going to delay capability. When I look at the effects of sequestration on this mission set, my good friend here Jim Syring, he doesn’t have a readiness account that he can go to, he has to go into the new START program, which is going to delay the Long Range Discriminating Radar, the improved kill vehicle that we need to outpace this proliferating threat.” ADM William Gortney, March 19, 2015.
In response to the House Arms Service Committee’s questioning on the implications of the Budget Control Act:
“Again, if I maintain my commitment to 44 GBI’s by 2017, which is our top priority, and our EPAA commitments that we have made in Europe, there’s not many places to go. So we would immediately go to the efforts that were started last year which are the Redesigned Kill Vehicle and the Long Range Discriminating Radar, approximately $500 million between those efforts. That would immediately put those on hold or delay those, and to me now you are starting to jeopardize our future capability in terms of what we are able to say to the American people and our ability to defend the homeland. With the development and testing that I see going on with North Korea specifically and the pace and the progress that they are making, I’m in serious jeopardy without those improvements of going to the NORTHCOM Commander and advising him that the system is overmatched. That would be the path that we are on if we don’t do these improvements between now and 2020. The system will be overmatched.” – VADM James Syring, March 19, 2015
“Mr. Chairman, the first point I would make is that we have not received any official guidance from the department in terms of what our sequestration amount would be. If it was applied equally we would take our proportion share of that cut. Where I see us having to go with a lack of being able to go to a readiness account as Admiral Gortney testified would be to either put on hold or delay the new start capability that we’ve discussed; The radar and the kill vehicle and maybe even some of the discrimination improvements that I view as critical to keep our nation safe. Depending on how deep the cuts go, would depend on how deep I need to go on not just the new starts, but other capability and testing that we are working on outside of that. There would be deep ramifications to those cuts if they went to that level. “Vice Admiral Syring, March 18, 2015
Commander of the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command LTG David Mann followed up:
“I think we have to recognize that the threat is not standing still. We see a threat that, like I said in my statement, is growing both in terms of the sophistication of their weapons systems as well as the numbers. So in that context the concern that we have is, a lot of our programs in terms of modernization of the Patriot force, the improvements to the radar, the missile enhancement segment, that we are trying to develop to give us that, to bridge that gap between the Patriot and THAAD force, the software upgrades that are required. Those programs, due to sequestration, could be impacted, they could be delayed and again, the threat is not standing still.” LTG David Mann, March 19, 2015
In addition, testimony at the Senate Appropriations Committee provided updates on the threat from both North Korea and Iran to the U.S. Homeland.
“Can you elaborate on the ballistic missile threats in the Asia Pacific and how we are ramping up our defenses against them?” Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)
“The threat from North Korea in particular is increasing in capacity, meaning numbers, and demonstrated capability. The other thing that we’ve noticed and have been watching in the past that has been reported in the open press is the no-notice launch capability that they have been demonstrating in terms of demonstrating without notice, launces of short and medium range ballistic missiles for test purposes. The concern I have is not just notification of launch and the ability to do that in a very short time, is the demonstrated increase in capability that we are seeing and the need to continue to outpace that with a capability that we field on our ships in particular and our THAAD system that’s deployed on Guam today in terms of constant improvements on the ability of our radars and our ships to track and keep track of and then discriminate the more complex threats.” – VADM James Syring, March 18, 2015
“In your budget briefing at the pentagon on February 2nd, you noted Iran may flight test an ICBM in 2015. Can you please discuss what you can what you are doing to stay ahead of long-range missile capabilities?” – Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
“As we sit here today, we are protected from a possible threat from Iran. That said, we watch and follow very closely their development. We all know about the space launch vehicle that Iran conducted in their attempt to put a satellite into orbit several weeks ago. To me that demonstrated the continued progress in terms of that longer-range rocket technology. That is what feeds the intelligence estimates that they could flight-test as early as this year. I think DIA’s recent assessment is more likely by 2017.” – VADM James Syring, March 18, 2015
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Hearing testimony on the most important investments, March 18, 2015:
Senator Richard Shelby: Most important investment today? –:
VADM Syring: The more important investment today is for radar and discrimination capability to make the best use of the 44 interceptors that we will have by the end of 2017.
Sen. Shelby: How important is it that we fund the re-designed kill vehicle?
VADM Syring: Extremely critical on the need for that kill vehicle to replace the older kill vehicles in the field that were fielded very rapidly
Sen. Shelby: How important is LRDR as the threat progresses?
VADM Syring: Critically important for, especially what we see in the intelligence estimates for the capability of North Korea and Iran to develop more complex threats which would include decoys and countermeasures and the ability of having a long range sensor that can discriminate the proper lethal object for us to intercept Vice Admiral Syring The LRDR is critically important to where I see the threat from North Korea going in the near future with the capability becoming more complex, requiring more interceptors and us having to, and the warfighter needing the assurance that we have persistent tracking and discrimination ability against that threat. It is a must. Vice Admiral Syring
Ma’am I am and I’m reiterating that, what you pay us and me and the Missile Defense Agency to do is to keep our capability ahead of the threat and this radar is important to give the warfighter that tool and that awareness of the threat a re-entry vehicle would pose and where it is amongst many other things that will fly along with it. The radar and the discrimination capability that it provides to give the warfighter that information to properly intercept the threat is vital.- Vice Admiral Syring, March 18th 2015.
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