Pentagon Cancels Sea-Based Missile Defense Program

Article excerpt

CITING POOR PERFORMANCE, projected cost overruns, and schedule delays, on December 14 the Pentagon cancelled a sea-based missile defense system designed to protect against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles during their final stage of flight, although Pentagon officials said they were not abandoning the effort to build a defense for that mission.

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Edward Aldridge announced the cancellation of the Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense system after program acquisition costs soared more than 57 percent.

Under current law, if the cost increase of a Pentagon program exceeds 25 percent, the secretary of defense, in order to keep funding the program, must certify that it is "essential to national security," that there are no cheaper alternatives to accomplish the same mission, that the cost increase is "reasonable," and that the program is run to manage or control the cost increases. Aldridge told reporters December 21 that he could not certify that costs were under control or that a management structure was in place to prevent further cost increases, resulting in the cancellation of the program, which has cost a little more than $2.3 billion to date.

The cancellation came unexpectedly. Earlier this year, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which oversees U.S. missile defense efforts, recommended transferring the program to the Navy to manage because it was judged mature enough to be run by a service. The Bush administration had also requested $388 million to fund the program during fiscal year 2002, of which $100 million will now be used for program termination costs.

Aldridge assured reporters December 21 that the Pentagon "will develop a new Navy terminal system." The new missile system's interceptor will be built around "hit-to-kill" technology, which means that the system will destroy incoming warheads through force of collision rather than through an explosion. …