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The Missile Defense "Must Do" List for the FY-24 NDAA, Virtual Roundtable, May 17, 2023

“This is our 50th Congressional Roundtable, and it comes at just a great time when Congress today and this week and most likely next week, will come up with their final National Defense Authorization Act and putting forward the missile defense priorities as we see it and we’ll gather probably one of our best teams ever, I think, from us. We’ve got over 137 years of experience in policy and operations and in acquisition.”

“So we understand that the NDAA is really Congress’s ability to balance and check the administration and put forward from the people’s perspective of what should be done, both really in policy and in investment in current capability and future capability. That’s what this act does, and it also goes for a five-year plan of acquisition development during that. So this act begins a five-year plan to end in 2028.” 

“From our perspective, 2028 is a long ways away, and we are going to see real threats. And we need to deter those threats before ’28, so heavy investment should be going into capacity with current capacity right now and certainly policy to enable us to use our capacity that we do have against the threats. And the threats have been established by the Secretary of Defense in 2021 by the President of the United States and continued to be reaffirmed in testimony this week, last week with our COCOMs and with our OSD policy, Department of Defense were the pacing threat, the number one threat to the United States of America, is China. The number two threat is Russia. And that’s where it stands. Those are the two major players.”

“And if you look back two years from here on February 4th, 2022 in Peking, in the opening of the Olympic Games there, President Putin and Xi Jinping were together, and they made a joint statement for the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China to establish international relations in a new era with global sustainability. 20 days from that speech, Russia declared a war that they’re still in with Ukraine. That war has seen over 6,000 missiles, 300,000 casualties, and billions and billions of dollars in destruction in infrastructure.”

“And on the other side, five months since that agreement, our Speaker of the House traveled to Taiwan, and the Chinese have done a record high, doubled, flight intrusions illegally into Taiwan airspace, 1,737 over the past year, and demonstrated missile shots around Taiwan in their overmatching of that. That’s a real threat. And we have generals that have publicly said that 2025 is an opportune time for the Chinese to make a mark on, or take back Taiwan. So what we’re doing has to be done and has to be done to deter their abilities to do what they’re doing today.”

“And then, move to look at Guam, that we are going to spend over $8 billion, us, American taxpayers, on a missile defense capability to defend our forward projection force in the Pacific. And we ask, you’ve got to have hypersonic Glide defense. You can’t build a system over the next six, seven years that does not have the ability to track, create fire control, and to be able to shoot down hypersonic Glide. Or else, you build that, and have got one or two of those missiles that are indefensible to destroy it. And so, that has got to be looked at in a very serious manner, because we are not getting a hypersonic Glide vehicle defense until the mid 2030s. We are investing less than 2% right now of our defense budget on development of that. We’re investing less than 1% on our HBTSS’s, which is a demonstration where we believe that you can get a constellation of 24 HBTSS’s and get the Glide Phase Interceptor in place by ’28. That’s critical. That is a big part.”

“And then, we look at Europe. When you look at Europe, and we’ve spent probably close to $20 billion in operations and capability development on the European Phased Adaptive Approach that has vast capacity against ballistic missile defense, but it is not allowed to go against Russia. It is built specifically for the defense of Europe from Iran. And we have problems in Europe, and same with the United States, that we have a separate BMD capability and then a separate cruise missile and air defense capability that have to be merged and we have to have open architecture with our allies. We cannot do this alone.”

  • Mr. Riki Ellison, The Missile Defense “Must-Do” list for the FY-24 NDAA, May 17, 2023

“So imagine the spectacle that President Putin has openly threatened to use missiles and nuclear weapons against our allies in Europe or those that are enabling the Ukrainians to resist his aggression. That would be the United States as the principle leader of that. If the Russians should attack Poland or an inadvertent missile launch come towards the sites in Romania and Poland, that the United States taxpayers have spent several billion dollars in and years constructing, developing, equipping, and our soldiers are there today, those commanders are not able to use those systems to defend themselves. They always have a right of self-defense, but the policy doesn’t enable them to truly protect the surrounding area and against a missile strike from Russia. And that needs to be changed. And also, we’ve spent several billion dollars to equip these sites with missile defense, ballistic missile defense capabilities, but have not enabled them to have the ability to defend against cruise missiles or to conduct offensive operations.”

“We need to, as a policy matter, move away from this artificial distinction, which doesn’t match the world anymore, that offense and defense are somehow very separate, number one and number two, that defense against some missiles is okay, but defense against others would not be okay. We need to get to a rather fundamental point that our policy is to defend against missile attack from any source, to include China and Russia. And we need to begin to have an architecture which is optimized for those purposes.”

“We have a similar situation in the continental United States, where the Commander of Northern Command, General VanHerck, has testified to the Congress that he doesn’t have the policy authority to defend against Russian and Chinese strikes on the United States, and for ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles, cruise missiles as well. And in the cruise missile area, what’s disappointing about that is that when you look at the suite of capabilities the Russians are demonstrating in the conflict in Ukraine, as you mentioned, some 6,000 missiles launched by the Russians at Ukraine, a large number of those have been cruise missiles from air-delivered platforms. And those things were developed by the Russians with the United States principally as the target and the US military as its principal adversary.”

“And so, at NATO, there’s a policy as an example that the Alliance will not defend itself from attack except for from Iran and North Korean missiles. Well, that simply doesn’t make sense when you have the leader of Russia, A) using missiles in high volume and B) threatening to use them against the Alliance. There’s an upcoming meeting of heads of state in government in just a couple months at NATO, and that would be an opportune time. And our administration should be pushing for that change in policy. That’s one of the things I thought Congressman Turner did an excellent job in testimony this week, eliciting from administration witnesses and making the case that that needs to be part of it.”

“The other thing I would encourage the Congress to do is appropriate money to begin work on space-based defenses. We’re out of step on that as a national security establishment. While we have some wonderful green shoots like the Space Development Agency pursuing tracking layers and transport layers of dramatically less expensive, more distributed architecture, we’re still not fully applying that to missile defense.”

  • Mr. John Rood, The Missile Defense “Must-Do” list for the FY-24 NDAA, May 17, 2023

“We need to defend all that across the board. And we are just getting out-lapped right now by everyone from the lone actor to the China’s and Russia’s of the world. And so we got to change our way of doing business. So the do piece is what I think we need to focus on. And I think Congress needs to focus on putting very specific language in the NDAA. One of the things… And I know by the way, Air Force leadership would like to go faster. You hear it from Secretary Kendall, you hear it from General Brown, you hear it from General Saltzman. But how could, maybe Congress help in the NDAA? But one of what I think is the red herring that gets thrown around a lot in the building is, we got to choose between spending money on stuff that we can do now and really investing in the future.”

“I think that’s a bunch of baloney in this day and age in the digital age. There’s nobody better than the US commercial industry at fielding stuff and then rapidly updating. And I’ll give the iPhone as an example. And maybe it’s overused, but the iPhone 14 dropped last September, September 22, with it dropped iOS 16. And in the intervening eight months, Apple’s released 13 new updates to that software. So they put a piece of hardware out, but they’re constantly making it better with the software. Oh by the way, the software’s backward compatible to several other models. Tesla’s the same way. If you buy a Tesla today and you bought a Tesla four years ago, you’re getting basically the same car. The hardware’s a little bit different, but the software is the same in those, and Tesla’s rapidly updating it.”

“So looking at the sensors and how this would apply, I think for as long back as we want to look, we’ve kind of handcuffed ourselves when we field sensors. We were very hardware focused and we focused specifically on a specific threat we’re trying to detect, say it’s a ballistic missile, and we program the software that we put in to this widget filters out all the noise that doesn’t look like a ballistic missile to make it a very pristine, very capable of tracking that ballistic missile.”

“So if I were king in the FY 24 NDAA, one of the things I think should be directed is a comprehensive near term review of everything we have fielded and how we can update those sensors simply by adding better processing power and better software. And that might bring some other actors into the defense game as well, rather than the standard big companies that we see doing most of the work. I think there’s a lot of capability out there that’s untapped potential across the United States that could help with this. On the other side of it, we do need to field new hardware obviously going forward. And we’re going to acquire new over the horizon radars. We’re putting new sensors in Guam, et cetera. We’re putting new sensors in space, but we can’t take 10, 15 years to put them up there.”

“You got to have the right effectors and we got to have the right effectors that can deal with hypersonics all the way down to, again, one way attack UAVs and everything in between. So anything we can do in the NDAA to expedite the fielding of the effectors we need is a good thing. What I will say is, we’ve got to get to affordable mass, especially when you’re talking about swarms of hundreds, potentially thousands of these smaller things. We can’t afford to be shooting effectors at them that cost on the order of magnitude, more of the things we’re shooting down. This is where I think you can find software solutions, leverage cyber, leverage electronic warfare, leverage some directed energy, high power microwave capabilities that are available. So there are companies out there right now and if the DOD acquisition system isn’t going to do what they need to do to select these companies and get their capability fielded, well then maybe Congress needs to get involved and pick some winners and tell the DOD to field them.”

  • Major General (Ret.) Charles “Corky” Corcoran, The Missile Defense “Must-Do” list for the FY-24 NDAA, May 17, 2023

“Hey, thank you Riki. Look, overall I just want to talk quickly about the NDAA. I think the president’s FY24 budget was a good starting point. It’s going to need quite a bit of modification. I’ll talk directly to some of the systems. I think for the defense of Guam, the department has successfully settled on the most expensive, least efficient and slowest delivered possible plan. But they have settled on it. And I think that’s where we are now. And we’ve, I’ve been through this before so I won’t go through why. At some point, if you just wanted to have something quickly in 2025 that could have defended you, you would’ve put an Aegis Ashore deckhouse with two to three VLSs, bought NASAMS and integrated along with the existing THAAD, which all talked through Link 16 and JREAP. And you would’ve had an effective defense of Guam by 2025.”

“That opportunity has come and gone, and now we’re stuck with a very manpower intensive, Army forces intensive unit structure, which is fine. If people were cheap and everything existed already, we’re doing this in CONUS, that’d be fine. But we’re talking about OCONUS, putting a thousand plus people to handle radars, trucks, multiple launchers, all replacing a very tight, an Aegis Ashore is 56 operators to include the VLS. And I’ll just say 56 doesn’t get you any of these Army components, It doesn’t get you 25% of any of the Army components we’re about to tell you. You’re going to end up with a thousand or 2000 Army soldiers manning this, which means you’re going to have to do MilCon, commissaries, elementary schools, everything that goes with it. And a $2 billion plan is going to be $10 billion before you’ve taken a deep breath. And that’s going to really piss people off. But I’m afraid that’s where we’re headed. I think they’re starting to see that cost and temper themselves. So suddenly the idea we put forward last year to build a couple of VLS, and shrink the number of trailers with launchers on them, that’s taken forward. We’ll see what happens, whether they’re willing to put Patriot out there or not, but the different systems we’re talking about are going to result in a lot of people. So with that said, I think that with the budget risk that I see right now, the biggest risk is in the IFPC. We’ve been arguing for NASAMS for five years. I think the Army has successfully made by arguing for NASAMS both correct and ineffective; correct in the sense that we gave the NASAMS to the Ukrainians despite any whispering that it wasn’t that great a system, it’s done pretty well in Ukraine. We know it’s a good system, so much so that the next few NASAMS sets to be built will be going to Ukraine.”

“So to try to insert the United States into that would delay much-needed systems going to Ukraine. It may well be that IFPC can be available now, now that it’s eight to 10 years behind original delivery from when they first started talking about the system to us in 2014, it’s now at the point where it’s delivery might be as fast as NASAMS. That’s just a sad statement about everything, but I think we might have arrived there. But even given that, the president’s budget on IFPC was wrong in the sense that they only put in effectors that I can see for the LRIP production, the initial four launchers, which are not for going to Guam. The 20 PDI, Pacific Deterrents Initiative launchers have no effectors that I can see with them, and they need about 360 of them.”

“Most ballistic missiles end up being hypersonic near the end of flight. So please, we’re talking about hypersonic glide maneuvering missile defense. For that, we have very little capability, and we’re only putting about three to 500 million from what you can see in the budget into this effort. I contrast that with our hypersonic offense, which is three to 5 billion. The problem, of course, is as a democratic state who practices deterrence, we shouldn’t be interested in our offense against their offense, we should be interested in our defense against their offense. If we’re not spending enough on defense, it’s going to be very hard to catch up. So I’m hoping that the Congress is able to find some areas to put money into this. I think there may have been some, believe it or not, unfunded on this and the MDA unfunded this, although it’s hard to tell. So that’s the second issue. The first issue is that defense of Guam.”

“Look, the country that invests its money smartest in defending itself against all kinds of threats, doubles down on that, Israel, they looked at JLENS and said, “Hey, that was the right idea,” and they have basically reconfigured JLENS out in the desert. We need a JLENS in Guam, we probably need a JLENS in Ramstein. We probably need one in the Massar area, but let’s start with Guam. Let’s have the services study it. Riki, as you and I know, our SHIELDs program at USC, a group of really smart young men and women looked at this and have come up with a policy paper on it, but I think it’s time for the Congress to intervene. I do not think the services, for several reasons, one, the parochial, “I don’t want to pay for it,” from each service, second, the Army who probably would end up getting it, just having that bad taste of their out from JLENS.”

“Okay, so first thing I’d say, is SM-6 in a terminal defense mode enough for hypersonic? No. 100%, no. A, your SM-6 better be located at your target if you’re going to be doing terminal defense with it. So that’s your first problem. You want to get something that’s getting them in the mid-course. You want that glide phase intercept, and you want it as fast as you can get it. If there’s any unfunded money on that, that’s almost criminal. I’m hoping there isn’t. I’m suspecting there is. But in addition to that, we need to be pushing, this needs to be one of the places where you don’t worry about, “Am I going to be yelled at next year ’cause I wasn’t efficient with this money?” When you’re talking about a critical deterrence busting capability from the adversary, you need to be unique and innovative and aggressive in tackling it. I just think for MDA, it’s like one more mission. It’s like you can’t plot it along like this like you do with GBI. We’re just at this point where we need to make a dynamic investment in this, and we need to be aggressive.”

  • Rear Admiral (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, The Missile Defense “Must-Do” list for the FY-24 NDAA, May 17, 2023

“Look, at the end of the day there’s a lot of discussion about acquisition reform in the big Army, which is requirements definition all the way to the death of a product. I don’t think we need acquisition reform, I think we need behavior reform. The Congress has given us a set of laws that allow us to do and move at the pace that we need to move. The question is, are we comfortable with that as a DOD acquisition requirements generation community? I think sometimes we struggle with that. My last job, as you indicated, Riki, was to not change the law. My job was to behave differently and to teach and help the department learn that you can do acquisition from requirements definition to the end a little bit differently, at a different pace. There are times, and I think hypersonics is one of them, and other areas where we must behave differently. We must press harder. We must accept risk that is known and understood.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s going to work all the time. That means we accept risk in a known way and we evaluate that risk. So Johnny Wolfe and I, Vice Admiral Wolfe being a dear friend of mine, we spent a lot of time on risk decisions, and a lot of great hard conversations on some risks we were willing to accept and some risks we weren’t willing to accept. But accepting that at a pace that allows you to meet the requirements of what we need as a national defense, weapons to put our nation in a position to win its war should our military be put in that position. In terms of the hypersonic defense, which I know Vice Admiral Hill’s working hard on, as Mark indicated, we must press. Now is the time to step on the accelerator, not back off the accelerator. We should be asking for all the money that we need and then some because something’s going to go wrong. When you accelerate programs, you don’t accelerate because you think it’s going to go perfectly.”

“You accelerate with the risk of understanding where you think the potential failures are going to happen and then you react quicker to those failures, and Congress wants that. My experience with Congress in the last four years is, as long as you remain 100% transparent with them, which I was, I went over there every quarter, talked about every penny I spent, every test we did, what went well, what didn’t go well, 100% transparency, then they’ll ask you to press. There’s some flight tests that we were public about that didn’t go as well as we wanted them to. Almost every time I had a flight test that didn’t go as well as we wanted to, I got a note that night from members of Congress, “Keep testing, keep going.” So we have this ability in some areas, hypersonic is one of them, where we really should be pressing really hard. I know Vice Admiral Wolfe, who’s still serving and my replacement, Lieutenant General Rasch are working hard at that.”

“By the way, at the pace, when Johnny Wolfe and Vice Admiral Hill and I were all there together, we actually combined offensive-defensive learning at the same time. We don’t have time to do an offensive program and a defensive program. You’ve got to use every test event to learn as much as you can about the offense and the defense, and that’s what we were doing. We have got to put our nation in a position that if we’re called on to defend this nation, that we can win the fight on both sides of the equation, offense and defense at the end of the day. So I think there’s a lot of work to be done. In the language, I would encourage our defense department and our Congress to seek the dollars at the pace we need them. CRs are terrible things when you’re buying equipment. They’re terrible things, and we all understand why they happen.”

“In terms of IBCS, first congratulations to the Army for getting a full rate production decision. I got a lot of my own scar tissue in that program and it’s really, really hard. In the construct, the services have an integrated, coordinated command and control system for the lower tier that matches the upper tier, which is C2BMC. Now the army has its piece in place to link to the upper tier, which is under Vice Admiral Hill, C2BMC, and then IBCS links into that. Remember, IBCS was constructed originally as an air defense program, ballistic missile program. Over time what we’ve done is we’ve, like we always do because we learn as we go and the threat changes as we go, now it needs to also be a cruise missile program.”

“The second part is to remember all the air defense systems that are out there now, speaking of JADC2 today fundamentally. They’ve got to be rolled into this. How do you do that? Do you federate it into the system or do you integrate it into the system? Do I put a wrapper around it and keep it kind of as a JADC2 with a wrapper and have the interface that way or do I fully integrate it into IBCS. I know Chris Hill and his team are having those conversations, but it’s really important in the timing. To your point, mark, the COCOMs get a big vote in the timing of fielding of that equipment and it’s capabilities. That’ll all play into the discussion.”

  • Lieutenant General (Ret.) Neil Thurgood, The Missile Defense “Must-Do” list for the FY-24 NDAA, May 17, 2023

“Thank you, gentlemen. Great conversation. I would go back to the fundamental opportunity that we have today to change policy. There’s no time better, in the last 30, 40 years, than it is today with the threat from China and from Russia to change our policy, to enable us to do the capacity and development and capabilities to best deter a conflict between now and 28 for sure, but beyond that. That policy is key to be rewritten, fixed, so we can play in the game that we need to be able to play in. I think the capabilities will come underneath that in priority and certainly we have to turn it up, on hypersonic defense. We’ve got to turn that thing up. I would also say, we didn’t talk much about it today, but the NGI also needs to be pushed to 27 and getting that thing out and fielded as well for that North Korean threat.”

  • Mr. Riki Ellison, The Missile Defense “Must-Do” list for the FY-24 NDAA, May 17, 2023


Mr. John Rood
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Department of Defense

Lieutenant General (Ret.) Neil Thurgood
Former Director, Army Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition
Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army

Rear Admiral (Ret.) Mark Montgomery
Former Policy Director
Senate Armed Services Committee

Major General (Ret.) Charles “Corky” Corcoran
Former Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations
USAF Headquarters

Mr. Riki Ellison
Chairman and Founder
Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance

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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.