Last week the President released the budget request for the Department of Defense (DOD) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 and in that budget, funding to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) went down $500 million from a year ago in the President’s FY 2019 DOD budget request. A surprise to many, as well as validation to many, that this sizable reduction was not in alignment with the vision the President and the DOD laid out in their powerfully orchestrated release of Missile Defense Review (MDR) earlier this year at the Pentagon.
This 2019 MDR is based on recognition that the threat environment is markedly more dangerous than in years past and demands a concerted U.S. effort to improve existing capabilities for both homeland and regional missile defense. This effort will include a vigorous science and technology research program in addition to the exploration of innovative concepts and advanced technologies that have the potential to provide more cost-effective U.S. defenses against expanding missile threats.
This 2019 MDR also emphasizes that the missile threat environment now calls for a comprehensive approach to missile defense against rogue state and regional missile threats. This approach integrates offensive and defensive capabilities for deterrence, and includes active defense to intercept missiles in all phases of flight after launch, passive defense to mitigate the effects of missile attack, and attack operations during a conflict to neutralize offensive missile threats prior to launch. – 2019 Missile Defense Review
The MDR vision clearly states that integration of offensive and defensive capabilities, along with vigorous technology development of more cost-effective means, to defeat missile threats which results in a significant amount of DOD funding in the FY 2020 budget proposal going directly to the budgets of the services in addition to the MDA FY2020 budget request. Moreover, new specific missile defense platforms proposed in space, in the air, on the ground, and at sea are being funded by those specific military services and not under MDA’s funding request. This remains valid to the development and production of Army air defense platforms and interceptors below the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) layer, where Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (MSHORAD) and the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) program proposals significantly increased from FY 2019. This is also valid for the development funding of the new promising air-to-air interceptors of the United States Air Force, the air defense platforms for the Marines, and the new remote unmanned ship platforms by the Navy that are not in the MDA budget. Not to be missed is the introduction of the new Space Development Agency with its own $149 million budget, funded outside of MDA, and will include the development and deployment of a constellation of satellites for a space-based discrimination layer. Not to be forgotten either is $235 million budgeted for directed energy and laser development separately funded in the Navy, Army, and Air Force budgets.
Adding the integration of offensive platforms including the Army’s long-distance precision fires and its new ground launched hypersonic attack, the Air Force’s new air-to-surface long-distance precision fires and its new hypersonic attack, and the Navy’s offensive capabilities would compound over and onto the investment of the MDA FY 2020 budget request. Over the top of it all, is the development of the “Engage on Network” cross-domain command and control, battle management with the use of artificial intelligence to provide globally and regionally instant tracking, discrimination, and firing solutions, which is not limited to MDA’s budget, but is one of the biggest and most critical programs that the DOD must attain to be effective and cost efficient.
What comes relatively free is the most cost-effective platform for missile defense which the DOD has already developed, tested, and deploying outside of the MDA budget, is the cross-domain F-35 that has the sensor platform and firing solution integration in place without investment from MDA. Bringing forward a new air-to-air interceptor that is being developed by Air Force funding not MDA is bringing to fruition a kinetic energy boost phase intercept (BPI) capability. MDA in turn is developing an existing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platform, the MQ-9 Reaper, that was originally developed, tested, and deployed by the U.S. Air Force, to be used as both a sensor and as an intercept platform.
Being cost efficient to reduce the cost curve of active missile defense requires streamlining of current MDA programs to be more efficient, multiyear interceptor buys, leveraging our allies in co-development and production, and the development and deployment of distributed lethality in remote controlled unmanned small ships, aircraft, and space satellite constellations that would have kinetic and future directed energy & laser interceptors.
MDA’s FY 2020 $9.4 billion budget proposal is sustaining its deployed programs and production, while maintaining its rigor of new development programs for homeland missile defense, regional missile defense, and future missile defense technologies – including a new Neutral Particle Beam capability.
When we look at this new revolution of missile defense lead by the polices of the MDR and funding in the DOD FY 2020 budget, they are synchronized and in alignment as a significant starting point that will continue to grow. For it is the offensive coupled with the defense that will now force the near peer competitors and rouge nations to invest in other areas, which most cannot afford to do, to defend their ability to project power rather than on the proliferation of offensive missile development and deployment, that has been unchecked.
There are no illusions, the MDR and the DOD budget are synchronized together to revolutionize missile defense in making our nation and the world a safer place.