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The Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces (SASC-SF) held its hearing on the FY2016 Ballistic Missile Defense Budget yesterday. Providing testimony was MDA Director VADM James Syring, Commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) LTG David Mann; Director for the DOD’s Operational Test and Evaluation Dr. J. Michael Gilmore; and Principal Deputy Under Secretary Of  Defense For Policy Brian McKeon.

During questioning, three key priorities were highlighted to maintain and improve the U.S. missile defense capability. These were the need to modernize and provide relief to the U.S. Army Patriot BMD force overworked by global demand and lack of supply; invest in a Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) for the U.S. Ground Based Interceptors protecting the homeland; and move forward with the deployment of a Long Range Discrimination Radar in Alaska.

On Patriot Modernization and Meeting Global Demand:

Sen. DONNELLY: What is the DOD’s plan for responding to the high demand for THAAD and Patriots systems and are there options you are looking at to increase the coverage or flexibility of these systems?
Sec. MCKEON: We have a lot of stress on the Patriot force, and there is a lot of demand from the COCOM’s for Patriot Battalions than we have in the Army. And we are working on a modernization on the Patriot that will effectively allow them to deploy without the headquarters unit, which will allow us to have more units able to deploy, we’ll be able to significantly increase the number of  deployable battalions, so that modernization program in going on over the next several years.

LTG MANN: In addition to what the secretary has also shared, as you know, there is a holistic review that’s taking place, there are a lot of different studies underway led by the Joint Staff, looking at how do we address an evolving threat. Quite frankly, it goes beyond just the number of active defense platforms, whether it be the number of BMD ships, or Patriot or THAAD. We need to kind of take a broader look at the dilemma, and really try to leverage whether its cyber, electronic warfare, attack operations where instead of waiting to go after the missile after its been shot, go after the archer, as AMD Gortney likes to say. Also we are looking at non-kinetic applications like directed energy. MDA is looking at how directed energy can be applied to ballistic missiles. In the Army, we’ve had a lot of success against mortars and UAV’s, and how can we use directed energy for our indirect fire protection capability to address the cruise missile threat. So there is a lot of modernization projects, but we also need to look more holistically verses just the number of platforms.

Dr. GILMORE: There’s a great deal of demand for these assets, a great deal of deployments that are ongoing.  The pace of training (on Patriot and THAAD) is not keeping up with demand and isn’t keeping up with the complexity of the capability of these systems as they’re modernized, and that’s particularly true of Patriot. In a resourced constrained environment, and VADM Syring and the services have to make hard judgments.

LTG MANN: I assure that our soldiers are properly prepared to conduct operations, but it would be great to have a test battalion capability that we’ve had in the past, but because of the demand, we’ve had to use that test battalion to meeting operational requirements to the committee…. But this gets back to my comments about sequestration. When you are looking at the impacts of sequestration, not only does it impact the readiness, but how we are able to address the evolving threats with new technologies.

On how a redesigned kill vehicle would improve GBI reliability and help control program costs:

Sen. SESSIONS: What can you tell us about the advantages of the RKV, and of making the 44 interceptors more effective and valuable?

VADM SYRING: The plan for the RKV was started last year, and it was started because of the early concerns we have had with the EKV, which has evolved over the years with different versions, but essentially, the prototype nature of the design has remained, in terms that is was fielded very rapidly, and without the complete systems engineering turn. The RKV will let us take a step back with what we’ve learned, and design a kill vehicle that is modular, producible, and testable before we flight test, and I think that’s very important to have that modularity and test component level to find issues on  the ground as opposed to in flight as we have. We need to get the overall reliability of the GBI up and the RKV will do that.
Sir, to make the best use of the 44 that will be in the ground by 2017 there is two fundamental issues that improve our capability and capacity. One is the reliability of the interceptor and two is the discrimination capability of the system. Those two fundamental precepts go to into defining the Northern Commander’s shot doctrine and his use of interceptors to defeat more threats with more complexity.

Sen. SESSIONS: What are the cost estimates for the new RKV?

VADM SYRING: Our price objective would be in the neighborhood of $15 million for the new kill vehicle. I think that is achievable, I know that is achievable and that would be a huge savings over what we pay today which is upwards of $35 million per kill vehicle.
Sen. SESSIONS:  And it would be considerably improved too?

VADM SYRING: Yes sir, because we have given the team the runway and the space to system engineer it with the right amount of time and the right effort from the beginning.

On the need to build up sensor capability for the U.S. homeland:

SEN. FISCHER: Is there a possibility of deploying SBX to the East Coast?

VADM SYRING: Yes additional sensor capabilities are not just not nice to have, but will be necessary beyond what we’ve asked in this budget. Second, SBX is fulfilling a very important role today in the Pacific with all of the testing that we do and for a surge capability that we provide to the Northern Commander when the situation arises. That’s the importance, ma’am of what we are doing with the request of the Long Range Radar in Alaska and some thinking about an additional sensor capability in Hawaii and I think in that priority order, when those are complete you will see us offer the option of Northern Command Commander to move SBX to the East Coast. That will be his decision and one that will be predicated on the ability to do our testing in the Pacific giving comfort to him that he is covered in an operation if he needs the platform and I think we have it right in terms of the priority of that order. In terms of North Korea, and certainly as DIA has said, can flight test at any time and we’re focused on that assessment and that very real threat today in the pacific.

Sen. DONNELLY: You’ve also stated that the greater priority for investment in improving your sensors, your discrimination capabilities, and the overall reliability of the GMD system. Could you describe how this will address the evolving threat

VADM SYRING: The threat is from North Korea. The threat from North Korea is at the short range level increasing in complexity and we have to assume that technology at the short and medium range level will eventually migrate to the longer range level. So, the complexity of the threat must be accounted for and the potential for that to increase and we must be prepared for that, and that’s the whole premise of the LRDR is to better defend against a more complex threat with fewer interceptors.

These three issues, RKV, LRDR, and Patriot Force modernization, cannot be addressed should Congress fail to deal with sequestration.

Ian Williams 

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