Magazine article National Defense

Financial Windfall Expected for Missile Defense Programs

Magazine article National Defense

Financial Windfall Expected for Missile Defense Programs

Article excerpt

* The Pentagon's missile defense programs are expected to receive a major infusion of cash in the coming years as North Korea and others engage in nuclear saber rattling.

In recent months, the Trump administration and lawmakers have signaled their desire to boost spending in this area in the wake of intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests by Pyongyang.

The results of the Defense Department's latest ballistic missile defense review, which is expected to help shape spending priorities, is slated to be released sometime in February. But officials have already hinted at what it will include.

"What you will see... in the [review] is emphasis on the capabilities that we have and how we're making that robust, and then where you will see investments," Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon in December.

Additional funding is needed across the board, he suggested. "You've got homeland, you've got regional, theater and strategic [defenses]. So it will be... more depth around those categories and what we're doing to expand our capability."

President Donald Trump's new national security strategy, released in December, listed missile defense as a top priority.

"As missiles grow in numbers, types and effectiveness, to include those with greater ranges, they are the most likely means for states like North Korea to use a nuclear weapon against the United States," it said.

In November, the White House took the unusual step of issuing a budget request amendment calling for approximately $4 billion in additional spending on missile defense and related efforts in fiscal year 2018. It requested more funding for a variety of missile interceptors, sensors and command-and-control capabilities for protecting overseas personnel as well as the United States.

Investing in interceptors isn't enough because they can't work without the other components of a missile defense system, Deputy Director of the Missile Defense Agency Rear Adm. Jon Hill said during remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Enemy missiles must be detected and tracked before they can be destroyed. "You can't shoot it unless you can see it," he said while emphasizing the importance of improving sensors.

Having a robust command-and-control and battle management capability is also critical. "That's everything from tasking the sensors to initializing the weapon and launching" the interceptor, he said.

"If you're going to increase your capacity you need to... worry about all of those pieces because a missile doesn't launch itself," he said. "A sensor doesn't do you a lot of good if you don't have a missile that's paired with it, and if you're not controlling it... then you have a problem," Hill said. The agency is looking to increase capability across all those major areas, he added.

Lawmakers are also calling for more funding. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act authorized a $12.3 billion topline for the Missile Defense Agency, $4.4 billion more than the Trump administration initially requested last spring before the latest North Korean ICBM tests, and $3.8 billion more than was ultimately appropriated and reprogrammed for fiscal year 2017. That would be about a 45 percent bump.

"Spending on missile defense steadily declined in the Obama years, but this topline budget [proposal] exceeds the previous high-water mark of $ 11 billion under then-U.S. President George W. Bush in 2007," Matthew Kroenig, a senior fellow with the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, said in a recent policy paper.

As of press time, Congress had yet to pass an annual appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018, but analysts said the signals coming from lawmakers and the White House bode well for ballistic missile defense in the coming years.

"There is no guarantee that Congress will appropriate all of the money that it authorizes in the NDAA, but both Congress and the Trump administration seem intent on throwing more money at BMD," Eric Gomez, a defense analyst with the Cato Institute, said in a recent policy paper. …

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