Dear Members and Friends,
As the summer heat starts returning to Washington D.C. and our national debt has hit its $14.3 trillion ceiling, President Obama has vowed to take $400 billion out of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) budget over the next twelve years. This would reduce Defense spending from 5.9% of our Gross National Product (GNP) to a projected 4.2% by 2020. The current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and future Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta are looking to make a more efficient, smaller United States military with a lighter global footprint that can respond rapidly to threats to our national security without making those forces hollow.
The Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly submitted an $8.6 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2012, a $120 million increase from last year, and testified to the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee (SAC-D) on the need for those funds for missile defense. In contrast to the overall reduction in defense spending, LTG O’Reilly’s earlier testimony this month to the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee resulted in an increase of $110 million to the 2012 budget for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. This indicates the importance, support and need of missile defense from DOD and Congressional perspective in light of the intense economic scrutiny and debt challenges our nation faces.
The SAC-D hearing was led by Chairman Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. Inouye, like his fellow Senators in attendance was concerned about the two failed GMD tests over the past eleven months and the costs of those tests, estimated by the Chairman at upwards of $200 million each. GMD, which funded at $1.16 billion makes up 15% of MDA’s budget request, had at its spending height more than double the funding during the previous administration and was the main focus of the hearing. Surprisingly absent from the discussion at the hearing were the funding needs for the full deployment and development of the President’s Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) for Europe. The PAA is being deployed this year and will be substantially expanded over the next nine years to provide full protection of Europe from ballistic missiles coming from the Middle East.
In response to questions of the confidence and testing challenges of the GMD, LTG O’Reilly stated that the next generation Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), not the booster stacks of the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) missile, was the issue and cause of the recent failures. Also noted was that the majority of the GBIs currently protecting the U.S. do not have the next generation of the EKV but rather the first generation EKV that has had multiple successful intercepts. The MDA Director pointed out that the recent flight testing of the GBI is pushing the outer limits of its range where most intercepts for the GMD system in a combat situation will not take place. Further, the cause of the first failure, a quality control issue, has been corrected, resolved and proven. The cause of the second failure has yet to be resolved and requires an additional test in space to prove what MDA’s ground testing has identified as the problem. MDA would require additional funding for more missiles and tests to fix the problem and to modify the existing fleet.
The discussion of GMD advanced to the protection of the eastern U.S. provided by the GBIs in Alaska and the architecture required for confidence in their ability to defend against a missile threat from the Middle East. Funding in the 2012 budget request provides an additional capability of eight more silos in Alaska if needed and a communication terminal (IDT) in Fort Drum, New York that updates information to the GBI while in flight, giving confidence that the GMD architecture is sufficient.
Conspicuously missing from this architecture discussion was the requirement, cost, planning and deployment of a significantly sized X-band radar for discrimination and fire control on or off the East Coast. The GMD system is dependent on targeting and discrimination information of X-band quality for successful intercepts. The Western U.S. is protected from a North Korea missile threat with high confidence by a GMD architect that has deployed IDTs and X-band radars. The floating Sea-Based X-band (SBX) radar off the Western U.S. is the critical discrimination sensor in the successful testing that provides high confidence for the GMD system. In times of economic scrutiny and a growing threat from Iran and the Middle East, it is difficult to understand why our nation would not want similar GMD architecture for the Eastern U.S. that the Western U.S. has.
Our Congress, military and President must ensure that both the missile defense systems for Europe and for the United States Homeland are not hollow and fully fund them in these challenging economic times.