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From left to right, Mr. Todd Harvey, Vice Admiral James Syring, Lieutenant General James Dickinson, and Mr. Barry Pike providing testimony to Congress on the FY 2018 Missile Defense Funding.

Today the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces heard testimony on the “Fiscal Year 2018 Priorities and Posture of Missile Defeat Programs and Activities.” Witnesses for the hearing included Vice Admiral James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, Lieutenant General James Dickinson, Commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, U.S. Strategic Command and Commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Mr. Todd Harvey, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities at the Department of Defense, and Mr. Barry Pike, the Program Executive Officer of Army Missiles and Space.

Below are the highlights of the hearing. Click here to watch the full hearing.

On the Recent GBI Test

Representative Susan Davis (California) – “While we celebrate the tests that you shared with us, and I think we all really do feel good about that, I also know that it was somewhat under perfect conditions, if you will. You might want to challenge that, but I think that it was under better conditions than perhaps we would face under a crisis. So how do we really, I think respond to the American people that are looking to see whether or not the dollars that are being spent under these endeavors compare to what we need to do in real-time deployment makes sense.”

Vice Admiral James Syring – “Ma’am, if I can, let me just have a point of discussion on that and I’ll then turn it over to general Dickinson, who is the war fighter responsible for the actual execution of the test, which the soldiers did. We have to plan tests ahead of time. We have to announce tests ahead of time because of the air corridors that we go across. It was a 5,000-mile test, and we’ve got to clear the aircraft, we’ve got to clear the ships from the area. So there has to be a notification on when the test is going to be conducted. The scenario that we conducted was actually an exact replica of the scenario that this country would face if North Korea were to fire a ballistic missile against the United States. We have two TPY-2 radars in Japan, we have radar in Alaska and a homeland defense system in Alaska as well. What we did is move that scenario south and put a TPY-2 northwest of Hawaii and shot an interceptor out of Vandenberg which just a thousand or 2,000 miles south, replicated what the war fighter would face in real-time. The scenario was executed by war fighters on console and the way the information flowed after the launch of the target is exactly the same way the information would flow upon a launch of a North Korean ballistic missile. It would be detected by the overhead sensors, pass it to the radars in Japan, pass it to the radar in Alaska, develop the interceptor task plan, and shoot an interceptor to defeat that threat. I would actually argue the scenario that we conducted was maybe more operationally realistic than not. We only fired one interceptor and a warfighter in a real-world scenario will fire more than one.”

Representative Beto O’Rourke (Texas) – “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Admiral Syring, I appreciate being able to see the video, that was incredibly helpful to understand what we’re talking about. Can you talk about — we obviously saw success in the ICBM being destroyed, can you talk about any concerns you have with the performance that you can share in this session?”

Vice Admiral James Syring – “Yes, Sir. This in no way should the Committee take away that this is the final step, and we’re stepping away, declaring success. We have been on a journey over the last at least five to six years to improve the reliability of the entire system. Sir, as you know, the system was fielded very rapidly back in the early 2000s, without a proper engineering cycle because of what the President deemed and correctly so, that some defense now is better than no defense. What was said back then was, we need to work to improve the system over time and I’ve stated openly in this Committee and others that I have reliability concerns with the system, that have been systematically addressed in large part over the last, I’ll say six years, bit by bit. It’s not just the interceptor, it’s the entire system. We’re not there yet. We have continued work with the Redesigned Kill Vehicle. We have continued to work with the components of the system to make it totally reliable, to give the war fighter options on shot doctrine in the future. I’ve been very open about that, that we are not done yet.”

Representative Mike Coffman (Colorado) – “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. One question I have is that this successful test that we just did, in your view and whoever would like to answer this, what impact do you think it has on the North Korean regime in terms of the development of their program? Does it send them a clear signal about the intent of the United States in order to defeat their capability?”

Mr. Todd Harvey – “I don’t think we can rely on the ration reaction of Kim Jong-un and his regime. That’s why we need to continue to make improvements to our GMD system and not give him an opportunity to exploit a weakness and use it to his advantage.”

Vice Admiral James Syring – “I would add that I think it validates, that if called upon to operate the system in a real world scenario, I have confidence they would do that entirely. What message it sends to North Korea, I have no idea but I know what message it sends to the American people in that we can defend them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Lieutenant General James Dickinson – “I think that statement in terms of the demonstration that we have the war fighters capable to do that 24/7, 365. I can’t speak to what his reaction would be, but it clearly does demonstrate we have the capability.”

The GMD System

Representative Trent Franks (Arizona) – “Let me shift gears on you here. How long do you think it will be before the GMD system has operational spares to ensure we maintain 44 GBIs at all times?”

Vice Admiral James Syring – “Sir, it will be post 2020 when we have a Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) available for procurement.”

Rep. Franks – “I know you need to pull GBIs from the ground for the RKV recapitalization of the CE-1 interceptors; is that correct?”

VADM Syring – “That’s correct, Sir.”

Rep. Franks – “How can we ensure we don’t fall below that 44 GBIs in place in the calendar year 2018?”

VADM Syring – “Sir, in FY18 the department made a down payment on solving that problem with $150 million to go towards two silos and six boosters, two silos additionally up in Ft. Greeley, and there will be a tail to that in FY19 and out to complete that work. But the department’s taken steps to address that shortfall, where if that were funded and supported by congress this year, and when the department funds the tail, plans will be in place to not dip below 44 for any length of time.”

Rep. Franks – “So that means you’ll start buying GBIs again to enter inventory when?”

VADM Syring – “We will buy boosters, Sir, starting this year and we will buy the silo materials starting this year as well.”

Representative Mo Brooks (Alabama) – “This next question is for any witness who would like to pick it up. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system in Alaska and California is the missile defense system that protects the United States from long-range ballistic missile attacks. Should the American people have confidence in its ability to defend the United States?”

Lieutenant General James Dickinson – “Congressman Brooks, the American public should have absolute confidence in it. I have confidence in the soldiers that man and operate the system. I have confidence in the system itself. I’ve got great confidence in the relationship we had with the material developer, Admiral Syring and MDA in that regard. Absolute confidence.”

Rep. Brooks – “Given that North Korea seems to also be advancing both their capabilities and perhaps numbers of missiles, do you have a judgment as to whether we will be ahead of the game in 2020?”

LTG Dickinson – “I at this point we will, given the current program of record, and I’ll defer to admiral Syring to talk about it, and what the capabilities are that we’re progressing with, I think we will likely be.”

VADM Syring – “Sir, I would answer and add that everything that this Committee has supported over the last four years has been targeted towards a near term, which is now part of the program record and fielded set of capabilities, a midterm, and a far term capability. Midterm defined by 2020. Everything that we are working on and fielding is to stay ahead of the threat by 2020. Today we’re ahead. We need to stay ahead. Where I just want to put one caveat in is on capacity, and certainly the sensor and discrimination work we’ve done to improve the capability of the system is on a trajectory and to a large part fielded. Where we need to be prudent and constantly vigilant on is what is the capacity increase that we can expect from North Korea and what is our capacity needed to meet that threat and I can assure you, Sir, as part of the BMDR, all of that analysis and intelligence estimates will be balanced to come up with the recommendation from the department.”

On SM-3 and SM-6

Representative Trent Franks (Arizona) – “Thank you, Mr. chairman. my name is on the list of those who honor and revere your commitment to this country and your service. admiral Syring, has MDA completed the inventory objective for both the SM-3 IB and the 2-A?”

VADM Syring – “There is not a stated inventory objective, but I know what the Navy is thinking it should be and we are not close to that.”

Rep. Franks – “When do you think this objective or — when do you think we could achieve that objective?”

VADM Syring – “At the production rate of — Mr. Franks, I’ll plan on 48 to 50 per year, it will be within the next four to five years.”

Representative Mo Brooks (Alabama) – “Admiral Syring, I understand that the missile defense agency and the DOD Director of Operational Tests and Evaluation both agree that a multiyear procurement of the SM-3 would make sense, and given common components, that adding a multiyear procurement of SM-6 may also make sense. Is that right? Or is that wrong?”

Vice Admiral James Syring – “I agree with that assessment.”

Rep. Brooks – “Why?”

VADM Syring – “One, the two interceptors are manufactured in the same location. There must be synergies between the two production lines. We have proven on the navy side, I’ll speak for the Navy, very, very successful track record with SM-6 testing and its technology baseline is mature enough, is absolutely supportive of a multiyear. The SM-3 IB will go through its final testing as part of formidable shield 2017 in the September time frame. We’re confident that given that test, both the SM-3 and the SM-6 will be ready for the department to certify multiyear procurement, at least that will be my recommendation.”

On Hawaii Missile Defense

Representative Duncan Hunter (California) – “Let’s go to Hawaii and first, I think this is the existential threat that America faces right now, and you’re dealing with it. You’re doing God’s work. So let’s talk about Hawaii. Let’s see, does the program that you’re talking about, you asked for $21 million for a new Hawaii ballistic missile defense radar, a Medium Range Discriminating Radar (MRDR), or the equivalent by 2021. What you’re talking about, is that what you’ll have there as opposed to just the SBX?”

Vice Admiral James Syring – “Yes, Sir.”

Rep. Hunter – “Okay, second question. Have you looked at — I know other people have, so specifically MDA, have you looked at using SM-3 Block 2A for the North Korea missile threat?”

VADM Syring – “Yes, Sir, we have done the analysis and looked at that extensively. We have not tested it yet… there is inherent capability within the SM-3 Block 2A to engage longer-range threats in terms of what we believe the design space is. We have not tested against the longer-range threat, but analysis indicates that that could add another layer of defense to Hawaii.”

Representative Colleen Hanabusa (Hawaii) – “One of the things that also — in your statement you talked about the radar, I think homeland radar, I don’t know what the whole acronym was for Hawaii, assuming that that radar is in the 2018 NDAA and appropriated accordingly, how long is it expected for that radar to actually be built?”

Vice Admiral James Syring – “If the funding is authorized and appropriated, we would then immediately do the aforementioned site surveys and finalize the site, and the aforementioned environment impact study in parallel to prepare for a competition industry-wide for procurement of that radar. And to answer your question, we’re counting on two years for that to happen and the reason I was hedging on the environmental study is that sometimes that can take longer than that.”

Rep. Hanabusa – “And though a lot of people assume that PMRF on the island of Kauai is the most logical place, I assume there are criteria that may place it somewhere else, that was why your response was your response? We have eight islands, I assume you’re looking at more than just Kauai as a site.”

VADM Syring – “We are, yes, Ma’am.”


Representative Duncan Hunter (California) – “Gotcha, okay. Let’s go to the SBX in 2020, it’s going to have to go dry-dock, right?”

Vice Admiral James Syring – “Yes, Sir.”

Rep. Hunter – “So you’re talking about building an actual radar on Kauai, right?”

VADM Syring – “In the state of Hawaii.”

Rep. Hunter – “So not the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF)?”

VADM Syring – “That’s one option. There are six or seven different locations that we’re looking at.”

Rep. Hunter – “Does the Navy not want to do it at the Pacific Missile Range Facility?”

VADM Syring – “Sir, the Navy completely understands the need for the radar and we’re working closely with them on what operational restrictions would have to be in place at PMRF.”

Rep. Hunter – “You have to have this done by 2020, right?”

VADM Syring – “We do.”

Rep. Hunter – “The last thing is, your MILCON budget request for the radar that will be in place before the SBX has to go into dry-dock. You have a date of 2021, yet you have a planned IOC date of 2023, assuming a fully installed integrated tested system. The question is, how does this time frame from the initiation of MILCON to operational capability compare to LRDR?”

VADM Syring – “Very similar.”

Rep. Hunter – “So you’re happy with the time frame of the SBX going away, which is what you used for this test, the SBX going away and you having a Medium Range Radar in place on the ground in Hawaii to take its place?”

VADM Syring – “Sir, I would just offer a little different perspective SBX. In my opinion SBX will not go away in 2020. It’s got to go into a dry-dock and we’ve got to manage that operational risk, but the decisions for SBX to go away will be on the NORTHCOM and PACOM commander’s call.”

Rep. Hunter – “So they could press that off by a year or two?”

VADM Syring – “Absolutely.”

On the Iranian Threat

Representative Doug Lamborn (Colorado) – “Now, shifting gears, what can you tell us in open hearing about the Iranian threat, and our efforts in Europe with sensors and — or radar and interceptors to deal with that threat, given the fact that we don’t have an east coast site as of yet?”

Vice Admiral James Syring – “I will be very careful here. I would put in perspective first the threat piece of Iran versus North Korea. There is no comparison in terms of the amount of testing that we’ve seen with North Korea, both in range and capability, to what we have seen in Iran over the last six to eight months. It’s night and day. So our priorities on focusing towards a North Korea threat have been exactly right. That said, we cannot forget about Iran and what they are capable of doing in terms of longer-range space launch vehicle technology and shorter-range missiles that they possess, both land based and antiship ballistic missiles as well. We as part of the BMDR need to look both ways when we assess our capacity on where the capacity is located, both in Vandenberg and Alaska, and what a potential east coast site could bring in terms of not only numbers but battle space to the war fighter, and opportunities with the right assessment capability to go along with it.”

On Directed Energy for Boost Phase

Representative Doug Lamborn (Colorado) – “Now, looking forward to the future for future progress in boost phase kill, I think we have to look at directed energy and MDA in the last few years has made some modest, but steady investments in directed energy. Now, as the missile threats to our country grow and as the geopolitical situation evolves and there are some dangers out there, I really see that we need to be stepping up our directed energy investments, but I’m dismayed when I look at this budget that we’re cutting $50 million in this year’s request for directed energy research and development. So how do we square that with the needs and threats that are out there?”

Vice Admiral James Syring – “Sir, the premise of the budget submission at the department level with directed energy was to pull directed energy funding across the department towards common solutions and common maturation of technology. That’s why we saw a reduction in the MDA budget. That said, we owe the plan to not just the department but we owe the plan to the Congress on how are we going to do that to continue the development of directed energy. I agree with you 100%. boost phase defense and directed energy should be pursued vigorously and without delay and I assure you as part of the BMDR, the department will look at directed energy in depth for missile deference and assess that recommendation.”

Rep. Lamborn – “Okay. Would you appreciate this committee reviewing that part of the budget and scrutinizing it carefully?”

VADM Syring – “Sir, as you’re entitled to with Congressional oversight, of course.”

Mission Statement

MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.

MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.