Magazine article Arms Control Today

Missile Defense Cost Rises amid Concerns

Magazine article Arms Control Today

Missile Defense Cost Rises amid Concerns

Article excerpt

The Obama administration's fiscal year 2016 budget request proposes a major increase for ballistic missile defense programs amid concerns from two high-ranking military officials that the country's current strategy to defeat adversary ballistic missiles is "unsustainable."

The administration is asking for $9.6 billion for missile defense efforts in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $1.1 billion, or 13 percent, above what the administration requested for fiscal year 2015. In the request for fiscal year 2016, $8.1 billion would be for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

Congress appropriated $7.9 billion for the MDA, which is part of the Defense Department, for fiscal year 2015.

The proposal to increase missile defense spending comes as the Navy and Army have raised alarms about the direction of U.S. missile defense policy. In a November 5, 2014, memorandum to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, and Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, wrote that the "present acquisition-based strategy is unsustainable in the current fiscal environment."

Current ballistic missile threats, they said, "continue to outpace our active defense systems and exceed our Services' capability to meet Combatant Commanders' demand."

The memo calls for the development of a more "holistic approach" to missile defense "that is more sustainable and cost-effective" and places greater emphasis on deterring and preventing missiles from leaving the ground and other means of defense, such as cyber- and electronic warfare weapons.

The memo, titled "Adjusting the Ballistic Missile Defense Strategy," was first posted on the website of Inside Defense on March 6.

In a Feb. 5 letter, obtained by Arms Control Today, Hagel responded to Greenert and Odierno's memo by saying U.S. missile defense strategy is "sound" but that the Pentagon would undertake a review to "inform force requirements and related issues" for the fiscal year 2017 budget request.

The United States is currently developing, testing, and deploying a ballistic missile defense system designed to counter ballistic missiles of all ranges in an integrated and layered configuration that provides multiple opportunities to destroy missiles and their warheads after they are launched but before they can reach their targets. The Defense Department spent approximately $105 billion on the system between fiscal years 2002 and 2014, according to a Government Accountability Office report in December 2014.

The MDA is proposing to spend an additional $38 billion between fiscal years 2016 and 2020.

At a March 19 hearing of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Rep. …

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