Saturday, May 9, 2009

New Missile Defense Budget plans

President Obama released the federal budget for 2010 on Thursday, May 7, and it holds significant changes for the budget year that begins on October 1. An official summary provides the following information:

The fiscal 2010 budget will reduce the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) program by $1.2 billion, leaving a fiscal 2010 request of $7.8 billion for MDA:
· The program will be restructured to focus on the rogue state and theater missile threat.
· Ground-based interceptors in Alaska will not be increased as planned, but research and development will be funded to improve existing capabilities to defend against long-range rogue missile threats.
· The second airborne laser prototype aircraft will be canceled due to affordability and technology problems, keeping the existing aircraft as a technology demonstration effort.
· The Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) program will be terminated because of significant technical challenges.
Let’s expand on the first point: this shifting focus includes a move away from boost-phase intercept programs and thereby belying earlier calls for the boost-phase which was regarded to be essential to defend America. The new policy envisages intercepts during the ascent-phase. The ascent phase starts after powered flight, but before a ballistic missile deploys decoys or executes maneuvers to avoid being shot down in the post-boost-phase of its flight. MDA’s Executive Director Rear Admiral David Altwegg said that the ascent phase intercepts are "significantly less challenging […] with the technologies now available." He continued: "Our studies tell us that this ascent-phase interceptor effort will provide the margin of superiority needed and replace boost-phase as we now know it."

Riki Ellison, Chairman and Founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, laid out that the development of ascent and upper boost-phase missile defense capabilities will require SM3/ AEGIS development, enhanced THAAD capability, and deploying a Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) constellation.

This is reflected in the new budget: the spending on the THAAD system will rise from $882 million to $1.12 billion and the sea-based equivalent, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, will have a budget which is increased by more than 50%, from the current $1.17 billion to $1.86 billion. Some of this money will be channeled from the PAC-3 program, which will be reduced by roughly 60% to $400 million.

The change – and the included cuts – already stirred up emotions. Representative Parker Griffith (D-Ala.) said in a statement. “This budget does not reflect the priorities of North Alabama and fails to provide clear support for national missile defense that is necessary to protect ourselves and our international allies." What a clear set of priorities, North Alabama first, (inter)national security second.

While we wait and see what other reactions come up, we can consider to found a “Hooterville citizens for missile defense” campaign to support representative Parker.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Hi Lars, I have posted some brief thoughts (in German) on the reorganization of US missile defense on my blog:
What do you think about it?