DoD Seeks Billions for Missile Defense Program
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 17, 2005 Pentagon leaders charged with protecting the country against a ballistic missile attack asked Congress March 15 for $7.8 billion to sustain development of the nation's first missile defense system through fiscal 2006.
The request is approximately $1 billion less than the fiscal 2005 budget.
Appearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told lawmakers the billion-dollar request will help his agency further develop and field a joint, integrated, multi-layered ballistic defense system.
That system, he said, "will defend the United States as well as deployed forces and our allies and friends against ballistic missiles of all ranges by engaging them in the boost, midcourse and terminal phases of flight."
Obering said $1.4 billion is needed to continue "fielding and sustainment" of long-range, ground-based, midcourse defense components, as well as "short- to intermediate-range" defenses that will be installed aboard Aegis-class ships.
Another $6.4 billion will be invested in the development foundation for continued testing and evolution of the system, he said.
According the general, $2.3 billion will help further development, ground and flight-testing of a ground-based midcourse defense capability against the long-range threat.
"This request includes up to 10 additional ground-based interceptors, their silos and associated support equipment and facilities, as well as the long-lead items for the next increment," he explained. To address the short- to intermediate-range threat, Obering said approximately $1.9 billion will continue development and testing of our sea-based midcourse capability.
That capability involves ballistic missile defense systems on Navy Aegis-class ships, and land-based a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. Known by the acronym THAAD, this system is a rapidly transportable, forward-deployable capability designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles in and above the atmosphere while they are in their final, or terminal, phase of flight.
In addition, funding will be used to purchase more Standard Missile-3 interceptors and to upgrade Aegis ships to perform the BMD mission, Obering said. He added that the agency is hoping to have up to 28 SM-3 interceptors on three Aegis cruisers and eight Aegis destroyers by the end of 2007.
"This engagement capability will improve our ability to defend our deployed troops and our friends and allies," he said. "Six additional destroyers, for a total of 17 Aegis ships, will be capable of performing the surveillance and track mission."
Smaller budget requests for fiscal 2006 include $521 million to execute the agency's Space Tracking Surveillance System and Ballistic Missile Defense System radar; $680 million for rocket boost-phase programs; and $82 million to continue development of the Multiple Kill Vehicle system, designed to shoot down incoming missiles.
"MKV is a generational upgrade to ground-based midcourse interceptors to increase their effectiveness in the presence of countermeasures," Obering explained. He said the agency looks forward to the first intercept attempt using MKV by 2008.
Justifying the need to sustain funding for missile defense, Obering said the threat the United States faces from proliferating and evolving ballistic missile systems and associated technologies and expertise "continues unabated."
According to the general, in 2004 there were nearly 100 foreign ballistic missile launches around the world. "This is nearly double the number conducted in 2003 and slightly greater than the number of launches in 2002," he said.
He told the committee that more than 60 launches last year involved short-range ballistic missiles; over 10 involved medium-range missiles; and nearly 20 involved land- and sea-based long-range ballistic missiles.
"Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom demonstrated that missile defenses must be integrated into our regional military responses if we are to provide adequate protection of coalition forces, friendly population centers and military assets," he explained.
"We must expect that troops deployed to regional 'hotspots' will continue to encounter increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile threats," he added.
Moreover, Obering said that nuclear-capable North Korea and nuclear-emergent Iran have shown serious interest in longer-range missiles. "They underscore the severity of the proliferation problem," he said.
"Our current and near-term missile defense fielding activities are a direct response to these dangers," he explained. "There are also other ballistic missile threats to the homeland that we must address in the years ahead, including the possibility of an off-shore launch.
"We have had recent experience with tragic hostage situations involving individuals, and we have witnessed how the enemy has attempted to use hostages to coerce or blackmail us," he continued. "Imagine now an entire city held hostage by a state or a terrorist organization. This is a grim prospect, and we must make every effort to prevent it from occurring."
Obering said the funding request will help develop and field the next increment of missile defense capability to improve protection of the United States from the Middle East and expand coverage to allies and friendly nations.
To that end, Obering said he believes the country's missile defense program is on the 'right track' to deliver multi-layered, integrated defense capabilities to counter current and emerging ballistic missile threats.
"For the first time in its history, the United States today has a limited capability to defend our people against a long-range ballistic missile attack," he said. "I believe future generations will find these years to be the turning point in our effort to field an unprecedented and decisive military capability, one that closes off a major avenue of threat to our country."