Sense and Sensibility

April 06, 2011

Dear Members and Friends,


The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces recently held a hearing on the authorization for FY2012 missile defense funding with Chairman Representative Michael Turner (R, OH-3) and the Ranking Member Representative Loretta Sanchez (D, CA-47).  Representatives Turner and Sanchez opened the testimony with remarks on the status of missile defense and voiced their concerns about our nation’s homeland missile defense system.


This was followed by concerns about the confidence in the Phase Adaptive Approach (PAA), the plan to protect Europe from Iran, and its development schedule of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA and IIB missiles. The hedge strategy if the PAA schedule is delayed or Iran develops a missile threat earlier than expected was also of concern. The questioning wrapped up with a strong push for Directed Energy and the Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) flight experiments for boost-phase missile defense.


At its conclusion the hearing brought up the reality of the technical challenges remaining for the PAA to stay on schedule. This included the capability for all of its missile defense systems to demonstrate successful discrimination against missile countermeasures and to launch interceptors and engage missiles remotely; relying and being dependent on sensors separate from the platform the interceptors are launched from.


Noticeably missing from the testimony were the funding requirements for Aegis Ashore; including its full outlay of manpower, missiles, S-band radars, fire control, production and force protection needs. Aegis Ashore is the cornerstone platform for the defense of Europe that will be developed, tested and deployed in Hawaii (2013), Poland (2015) and Romania (2018).


More importantly, the total cost to the American tax payers for the full implementation of the Aegis Ashore System, additional Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) ships and missiles, forward based AN/TPY-2 radars, future sensors, additional force protection and Command and Control integration for the protection of Europe has not been announced, nor was it addressed. Absent from the hearing was a discussion about the authorization of additional funding to cover these costs that are instrumental in the full implementation of the President’s plan to protect Europe.  This unidentified cost could be approximately $4-8 billion and will have to compete for funding with the United States combat commanders missile defense demands for their areas of responsibility in the U.S., Middle East, East Asia, Israel and Northern Africa.


Further adding to the complexity of a challenging program and an underfunded missile defense budget is the use of continuing resolutions (CR) to fund the Federal Government. The use of CRs has kept spending at FY2010 levels for the past six months and has held back all authorized program spending for 2011. This has resulted in work shortages, program delays and the severe limitation of systems like the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD). The GMD and other systems have had to make cuts to their current and future capability severely damaging their ability to stay on schedule and budget.


The key testifying witnesses for the hearing were:


– Dr. Brad Roberts, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear & Missile Defense Policy

– Dr. J. Michael Gilmore, Director of Operational Test & Evaluation for the Secretary of Defense

– Mr. David Ahern, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Portfolio Systems Acquisition

– Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency


Based on the witnesses’ collective testimony, there is confidence in the following:


– Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI) in California and Alaska against an intermediate-range ballistic missile (ICBM) from North Korea

– An immediate hedge strategy of increasing the GBIs from 30 to 42 in Alaska and California.

– Holding to a rigorous testing regime for the PAA and GMD

– Fixing and retesting the GMD system that would require four new tests over the next three years in response to the failed intercept in January

– The schedule to meet the timelines of the PAA, including developments of the SM-3 IB, IIA and IIB missiles


Their testimony further stated that the SM-3 IIB, which is to defend Europe from ICBMs and have some capability to defend the United States, is not designed to intercept the fast and high flying ICBMs. Instead they are designed to intercept all missiles of all types in their early stage of flight, provided they have correct sensors forward and can launch early.  The confidence the witnesses have in the systems’ ability to be on schedule is impressive and optimistic. This is especially true considering their technical challenges, probability of future failed tests, and not requesting additional funding or readjusting timelines for the development and implementation of all of these systems.


We support their efforts but they need to be held accountable by the American people, the President and Congress to do what they are promising they can do.  It’s too important for our nation’s safety, our deployed troops and allies to allow these schedules to slip or be delayed. We must provide effective robust layered missile defense systems against the growing threat to the homeland, Europe and the regions around the world we defend.


“It’s clear we’ve had a lot of new information over the last year that confirms the basic intelligence community finding that the threat is continuing to develop both quantitatively and qualitatively, and it has reinforced our principal conclusion that we need a balance approach that continues to improve the defense of the homeland while, at the same time, accelerating regional protection.” Dr. Bradley Roberts, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy in testimony to the U.S. Congress March 25th, 2011.

A transcript of the complete hearing and the witnesses opening statements can be found here, under “Transcript & Testimony.”

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