Transcript

Department of Defense Press Briefing on the President's Fiscal Year 2022 Defense Budget for the Missile Defense Agency

May 28, 2021
Navy Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, director, Missile Defense Agency; Michelle C. Atkinson, director for operations

STAFF:  Ladies and gentleman -- ladies and sir -- hey guys, welcome to the Missile Defense Agency's briefing on our portion of the president's budget for fiscal year '22 -- 2022. On my left are your briefers today. Vice Admiral John Hill is the Director of the Missile Defense Agency, and Miss Michelle Atkinson on his left is the Director for Operations for the Missile Defense Agency.

We'll go through a brief slide deck, and then the Admiral and Ms. Atkinson will take your questions. When the Q&A begins, please wait for me to call on you, and please identify yourself and your outlet when we do so. And I'll ask the Admiral to begin.

VICE ADMIRAL JON A. HILL:  Okay, thanks Mark. Good afternoon everybody, thanks for staying late for us on a Friday before Memorial Day weekend. It's great to be here. Again, I'm John Hill, the Director, and my Director for Operations who also owns a human resources and facilities and budget, is the good Michelle Atkinson, and she'll walk you through the brief and then we'll take questions afterwards. So, over to you Michelle.

MICHELLE C. ATKINSON: Thank you, Admiral. Good afternoon everyone, I know that we are the only thing standing between you and a three day weekend, so we'll be -- we'll be quick here. I appreciate the opportunity to brief you today on the Missile Defense Agency's FY '22 budget request. Next chart please. Our current missile defense system can defeat today's ballistic missile capabilities of our adversaries.

However, the threats posed by both ballistic and non-ballistic systems from rogue nations and strategic competitors can deter -- can used -- in gross -- increase and grow in complexity. There are several trends with respect to the nature of this growing threat worth noting.

First, ballistic missiles continue to proliferate, and will be a threat in future conflicts involving U.S. forces. Ballistic missiles have been used in several conflicts over the past 30 years, and will continue to be used.

Second, adversary ballistic missile systems are becoming more sophisticated. Their systems are becoming more mobile, survivable, reliable and accurate, and can achieve longer ranges. New ballistic missile systems also feature multiple and maneuverable reentry vehicles, along with decoys and jamming devices.

Third, as recently emphasized by Secretary Austin, the lines between ballistic and non-ballistic missile threats have become increasingly blurred, as we are seeing with the new hypersonic missile threats. Hypersonic glide vehicles delivered by ballistic missile boosters are an emerging threat. These threats can travel at exceptional speeds with unpredictable flight paths. This poses new challenges to our missile defense systems.

Fourth, the cruise missile threat to our U.S. forces is increasing. The majority of land attack cruise missiles will still be subsonic, but supersonic and hypersonic missiles will be deployed in the future. Land attack cruise missiles will also have increased survivability by minimizing radar signature and also the use of countermeasures.

These are the challenging realities of the emerging missile threats. U.S. missile defense policy, strategy, and capabilities must continue to evolve in order to address these threats. The Missile Defense Agency FY '22 budget request addresses these realities as I will discuss throughout this briefing. Next chart please.

The Missile Defense Agency mission remains unchanged. Our missile defense capability must be able to address the full spectrum of missile threats, both ballistic and non-ballistic. The continual improvement of our missile defense system is especially critical.

Without further development and technology investments, our current system will not have the capability to address the more advanced threat, such as the cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles I spoke of. Next chart please.

The agency's foundations are focused on delivering missile defense capability to our war fighters, and the FY '22 budget request reflects this commitment. This request continues to operate and maintain our fielded systems, such as ground-based midcourse defense, AEGIS, and THAAD to the highest level of system readiness and reliability.

This budget continues to produce and field missile defense cap -- capacity to address the expanding threat, including delivery of additional interceptors and radars.

Finally, this budget prioritizes investments in new capability development and advanced technologies to address the emergence of a new and more advanced threat I spoke of earlier, with efforts such as the hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor, or HBTSS, hypersonic defense, and the next generation interceptor, or NGI. Next chart please.

Our total request of $8.9 billion FY '22 strengthens and expands the deployment of defenses for our nation, our deployed forces, allies, and international partners against increasingly capable missile threats. Of the $8.9 billion FY '22 request, $7.2 billion, or 80 percent of our budget, is for research and development efforts.

This budget request balances the numerous requirements and priorities against available budget. Our FY '22 budget request is only slightly lower than the FY '21 budget request of $9.1 billion. Our procurement budget request is slightly lower this year as we prioritize development of new capabilities in order to counter the emerging missile threats. Next chart please.

This chart outlines the highlight of the FY '22 budget request. This request allows us to maintain operations and readiness of deployed missile defense systems, and also our C2BMC network. This request also continues production and fielding of missile defense capability and production of additional SM 3 block 1B and 2A missiles for the Navy, and THAAD interceptors for the Army.

Finally, in response to the increasing threats I spoke of earlier, this request includes several development and technology efforts. Examples of these development efforts include the hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor, development on which we are working very closely with the U.S. Space Force and the Space Development Agency. This budget fully funds the next-generation interceptor program to maintain two industry teams through the critical design review. We awarded two contracts in March of this year to this important Homeland Defense program.

This budget also requests funds for the development of a regional hypersonic defense glide phase intercept capability. In response to a request from INDOPACOM, the budget request also includes funding for the defense of Guam. The next set of charts will address some of the specific budget line items in the missile defense agency's FY22 budget requests. The charts are an order of the missile defense system battle sequence - detect, control, and engage. Next chart, please.

As I mentioned earlier, in coordination with U.S. Space Force and SDA, we are developing a hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor. This capability meets critical Warfighter requirements and provides fire control quality data to track dim ballistic threats and global maneuvering hypersonic threats. The program is focused on deploying the first two satellites in FY 23. The Space Tracking and Surveillance System, or STSS, remains in orbit now, supporting DoD and the intelligence community.

The budget request supports the passivation of these two STSS demonstration satellites, which operated well beyond their expected service life and provided the foundation for future space-based sensor capability to include HBTSS. We are developing, deploying, and sustaining ground-based radars to counter current and future missile threats, build Warfighter confidence, and increase force structure. The FY22 budget request includes upgrading and sustaining 12 AN/TPY-2 radars, with a 13th radar being procured now with FY 21 funds from Congress. Completing and fielding the Long Range Discrimination Radar, or LRDR, in Alaska.

LRDR construction continued this year despite a temporary work stoppage that lasted several months because of steps taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This advanced radar is a critical midcourse sensor that improves the missile defense system threat discrimination capability and also allows for more efficient use of the ground-based midcourse defense system. The Sea-Based X-Band Radar, or SBX, provides precision midcourse tracking and threat discrimination to protect our homeland.

The FY22 request continues operations in support of this critical radar. We will continue to sustain and provide updates to the Upgraded Early Warning Radars or UEWRs and continue to Cobra Dane radar refurbishment and life extension effort in partnership with the U.S. Air Force. C2BMC is the integrating element of our missile defense system. The FY22 budget request sustains the fielded C2BMC capability across 18 time zones with hardened networks supporting all of the combatant commands. The budget request also integrates new capabilities into C2BMC, such as LRDR. Next chart, please.

The department is committed to improving U.S. homeland missile defenses to counter limited missile threats from rogue states. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD, serves as a continuously available homeland missile defense capability for defending against today's rogue state ballistic missile threats. To ensure continued operability of the GMD system, we have requested funding to continue with the service life extension program that will include upgrades and replacement of ground system infrastructure, fire control, and co-vehicle software to improve reliability, capability, capacity, availability, and cybersecurity. The request supports the currently deployed Ground-Based Interceptors, or GBIs, and completion of the additional missile field in Alaska to enable future fielding of the next generation interceptors.

As I mentioned earlier, the FY22 budget request includes funding for two NGI industry teams through the critical design review. This plan reduces technical risk, secures competitive production pricing, and creates incentives for early delivery to the Warfighter. The Aegis missile defense request continues to upgrade the Aegis Weapon System and procure additional missiles. 40 Aegis SM-3 Block IB missiles and eight SM-3 Block IIA missiles will be procured for deployment on land at the two Aegis Ashore sites in Europe and at sea on multi-mission capable Aegis ships.

Our request continues the multi-year procurement for the SM-3 Block IB missile. We will continue to develop and implement Aegis Weapon System upgrades to support the Navy's newest Destroyers with the new SPY-6 radar, as well as upgrade sensors on the older ships in the Aegis fleet. Currently, construction is over 90% complete at the Aegis Ashore site in Poland. Jointly with the Army Corps of Engineers, we recently installed four SPY radar arrays and the fire control system there. Aegis weapon system installation and checkout have also commenced.

The THAAD weapons system is a globally transportable ground-based missile defense system, which is highly effective against short-range, medium-range, and intermediate-range threats. In FY22, we will procure 18 THAAD interceptors, obsolescence mitigation efforts, and training support. We will also continue the development and integration of multiple independent THAAD software builds to address the evolving threat, improve the Warfighters defense planning and improve system capability. The FY22 budget request includes funding to continue testing of THAAD and Patriot interoperability to improve the overall missile defense capability and increase the defended area. As I mentioned earlier, we were responding to requests from INDOPACOM to begin the development of a defense of the Guam system. Next chart, please.

The FY22 budget request includes investment in innovative technologies to address the emergence of new and more advanced threats. The budget request continues our advanced research program to explore innovative and disruptive technologies and also to develop emerging capabilities to enhance our missile defenses. This budget also includes funds for system engineering to continue to provide critical products and processes needed to combine element missile defense capabilities into a single, integrated and layered system. Testing is a critical aspect of the Missile Defense Agency mission. Validating system performance through flight and ground tests is paramount to building Warfighter confidence in our system.

To that end, the FY22 request includes flight, ground, and cybersecurity testing and the development of threat representative targets used during testing. FY22 test highlights include FTX 26, which is the LRDR Operational Acceptance Test, and FTM-46 which is required for the SM-3 Block IIA missile full-rate production decision. We are taking steps to develop and deliver regional layered hypersonic defense capability to the Warfighter. We are developing a glide phase intercept capability for a future demonstration, leveraging our existing missile defense systems.

In response to USNORCOM's requirement for cruise missile defense of the homeland, the FY22 request includes funding to develop the systems architecture and to conduct a demonstration of cruise defense capabilities using the joint tactical integrated fire control capability. Missile Defense Agency and the Israel Missile Defense Organization continue to cooperate on engineering, development, co-production, testing, and fielding of the Israeli missile defense system. The FY22 funding request remains consistent with a memorandum of understanding between the United States and Israel. Next chart, please.

In summary, the Missile Defense Agency's FY22 budget request is $8.9 billion. An important part of the department's strategy to defend the nation, this budget request prioritizes funding for the development of new capabilities to counter the expanding threats. This budget request continues the development, rigorous testing, and fielding of reliable, increasingly capable state-of-the-art missile defenses. It focuses on the readiness, capability, and capacity of fielded homeland and regional missile defense systems. The FY22 budget request enables the Missile Defense Agency to outpace future offensive missile systems in order to defend the United States homeland, our deployed forces, our allies, and international partners.

Thank you. The admiral and I will now take a few questions.

STAFF:  Steve, lead us off, please.

QUESTION:  So back in February, MDA published an RFI for a pulsed laser that could be air or space, or even ground operated. So is anything like that in the fiscal 2022 budget? Or if not, where do you see that going? And also, for that matter, air-launch kinetic intercept, if that's in the FY22 budget anywhere?

ADM. HILL:  Yeah, the second one I know is not in the budget. I do remember when we put out the pulse laser work, and that was to get that feedback from the industry for potential investment in the future. Michelle, do you have anything to add?

MS. ATKINSON:  We also received an FY21 congressional toss-up for the DPAL laser program.

QUESTION:  That was supposed to be eliminated last year, but I didn't realize there was a plus-up? Oh, OK. I see.

STAFF: Sandra?

QUESTION:  Thank you. Can you clarify what is the request for BBTSS and for SKA? You had it in the chart, but I couldn't tell there. There were two numbers there.

MS. ATKINSON: OK. So the -- let me find it. The HBTSS budget request is roughly $260 million this year.

QUESTION: OK. So and then SKA was $32 million? Is that what...

MS. ATKINSON:  No, it was what the other number was.

QUESTION: OK. So does that funding fund the two prototypes, the two satellites? And do you plan to downselect and only launch one satellite? Or do you plan to launch both?

ADM. HILL:  Thanks, a great question. You're talking specifically about hypersonic ballistic tracking (space) sensors. So yeah, HBTSS is on the path to launch two interoperable satellites that are built by two separate industry partners. So the idea is to keep competition in early, given the complexity of the mission. It is the only program within the space portfolio that provides fire control quality data down to a weapon system like Glide Phase Interceptor.

QUESTION:  And are these payloads going to be also the payloads that SDA will use in the tracking layer?

ADM. HILL:  They'll be interoperable with the tracking layers. So if you look at the overall architecture, what SDA is doing with the transport layer, and what they're doing with a wide field of view, a queuing source for HBTSS as an example, they're connected that way, but they are separate.

QUESTION:  So, you will not be developing payloads for them. Will they be doing their own payloads?

ADM. HILL:  Yes. We have different missions, and so each HBTSS fire control, wide field of view for early warning that would then queue those satellites. So they're connected within the architecture, but they are separate.

QUESTION: OK. Thank you.

ADM. HILL:  Thank you.

STAFF:  And let's go to our online folks. Do you have a question?

QUESTION:  Yeah, thanks for doing this. I just wanted to clarify. I see the MDA requested $248 million in defenses against hypersonic speed weapons, and you mentioned the Glide Phase Interceptor. But are there other projects within that $248 million, or is that all for GPI?

ADM. HILL:  Do you want to talk about it?

MS. ATKINSON:  Yeah, so GPI is the majority of that funding. We also have engineering, and we're starting to plan for the targets and testing of that capability in the future.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

STAFF:  Okay, Jen, please.

QUESTION:  (inaudible) I wanted to ask a little bit more about defense of Guam effort.  Is that now sort of in lieu of -- I know originally you were looking at a radar at -- somewhere in the Pacific, a Hawaii radar.  They were talking about like a 360 Aegis Ashore-like capability.  What are you looking at for Guam, a defense of Guam capability?  And what's on the timeline, it looks like you're investing a $100 million on that, but if you can give a little more detail on what the architecture may be looking like for this effort (inaudible)

ADM. HILL:  So we're not really positioned to do that yet.  So you referred a little bit to what's in the INDOPACOM Pacific defense initiative.  So, there's that and the request from INDOPACOM, but right now we're in the middle of doing that architecture analysis with the CAPE and with the joint staff and others to make sure that we have the options on the table, so that we can make use of the resources that we have to give the best defense possible for Guam.  And so we're working through that now. 

And part of that -- the real focus on those dollars in the '22 budget is to do things like spectrum analysis in the area because we know we the sensing capability.  We know that we have varying topology there across the island so how would you place those sensors?  Where would the fire control systems go?  Where would the weapons go?  So there's work there and there's likely some long lead material items that we'd want to procure.  But we're keeping that option space open now within the Department until we've come through all of those trades.

QUESTION:  OK.  Can you provide a little more detail in terms of what systems might be on the table in terms of what you're looking at?  I mean, especially if you're already looking at long lead items I'd imagine you have some sense of maybe where you want to go?

ADM. HILL:  Sure.  Yes.  What I think we'll do, and I say I think because it's still in the trade space, but we're going to focus heavily on the regional systems today that are prudent, that have program of record that can be evolved.  And so when you look at that, there's a fair amount of capability by which we can construct a really great architecture.  We're just doing that work now and this funding helps us to robustly go after that so we can meet the timeline.

QUESTION:  OK.  Are you hoping to have a more fleshed out plan of this, you know, by some time in FY '22…

ADM. HILL:  Yes.

QUESTION: …so then you can fund a path forward more robustly in FY '23?  Is that sort of the plan?

ADM. HILL:  Yes.  Yes.  That's -- that is the plan.

STAFF:  OK.  And let's go back to our remote audience.  Mr. Peter Loewig.

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks very much.  My Guam question got covered, so can you talk about other -- are there other -- are there other missile defense initiatives in the Indo-Pacific?  And then specifically because Aegis Ashore has been mentioned so much with Guam, has there been anything done to reflect the fact that the Japanese public has slowed, delayed, stopped, the Aegis Ashore in Japan?

ADM. HILL:  Great -- great question.  So, I'll answer specifically to the missile defense for Japan.  We're working very closely with the Japan Ministry of Defense to assess options.  And you're absolutely right, a decision was made by the government of Japan to no longer pursue the two Aegis Ashore sites. 

And so what we're doing now is answering questions for the Ministry of Defense to help them make their decision on what the configuration would be for the equipment that they have procured through FMS and through the direct commercial sales programs tied to Aegis Ashore, but how can you take those and make them sea based.  So that's in the Japanese trade space now and we're in full support.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  And no other -- no other missile defense elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific in this request?

ADM. HILL:  If you -- if you look at the details of the capability that we bring forward into Aegis ships as an example, and when we talk about the investments going towards a hypersonic missile-defense regional glide based capability, that would have a contribution in the -- in the INDOPACOM theater, HBTSS as a space asset.  When we get those two satellites built by two different companies into space in the '23 timeframe, they're meant to be in an operational position.  We will use those up for testing in the region initially and based on the how we characterize their performance they could be used operationally.

QUESTION:  Great, thank you very much.

ADM. HILL:  Great, thank you.

STAFF:  Jen, please.

QUESTION:  So what's not super clear in the document that we've received so far on the budget is your plans for the homeland where, you know, looking at potentially incorporating that or you just -- some of these other systems?  So could you walk us through how that is taking shape for you now and what we might be able to expect in FY '22 budget for potential plans for this?

ADM. HILL:  So for '22 that -- the real focus would be to pick up where we -- we did a feasibility test for FTM-44, an aegis ship engaging an ICBM outside the requirement space, so operated outside the combat system's requirements space, outside the missile's requirement space.  It was a congressionally directed test to be done last year, we completed that in November.  And so what that does is that now, you know, leads you to questions about how would the system perform against a more complex type target. 

So when you look into the budget, which you'll see is that look at the command control battle management, what would it take to bring together the homeland defenses and incorporate an Aegis capability?  What can be done within the THAAD program, terminal high altitude air defenses system, and how would you link all those together to give options to the combatant command? 

Those decisions have not been made to-date, what we're really doing is coming through the feasibility and the technical approaches of bringing those together as a layered homeland defense perspective.

QUESTION:  OK.  So in FY22 we would -- the funding to look at this would be in terms of the things you mentioned.

ADM. HILL:  Yes.

QUESTION:  OK.

STAFF:  And let's go to our remote audience, Jason Sherman from Inside Defense please.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  Hill, I wondered if you could say a little bit more about the Hypersonic Defense Program and walk us through this shift that MDA when through when thinking with the -- the program that you kind of re-designed and then sort of repackaged as the GPI.  Could you talk to us about the timing of that program and your efforts to accelerate it?  Sort of what -- what's the -- what -- what -- what was the -- the time that -- that -- that you -- under the old program?  What is the target for fielding under the new program?  And could you say something about the interceptors? 

Will you basically be using off-the-shelf or a modified variants of what already available for that in the first iteration and then going to a completely new design for something further down the road?  And -- and -- and when does the terminal capability begin to come online?  I'm -- I'm -- I gather that's not in this budget but you have a request (inaudible) industry.  So you could talk us through all of that, sort of the change for the program, what interceptors the interceptors are that you -- you are looking at the near-term, far-term, and yes, thanks.

STAFF:  Let’s just let him go ahead and get to those questions...

ADM. HILL:  You know, Jason, I thought you did a great job outlining the -- the strategy.  So -- so the way I'll answer it is I'll kind of give you a sense of where we are today and then I'll kind of walk you forward, all right.

So -- so where we are today from a protection of sea base, Sea-Based Terminal, you mentioned that.  And that's tied in and controlled by the Aegis Combat System, leveraging off-board sensors to protect the high-value units set within the sea base.  That -- that capability is designed to handle what I will call the advanced maneuvering threat, right.  So that's sort of that first layer of defense against hypersonics - a pretty important capability.

Now, how do we build on top of that?  Where we were a couple years ago, it was a science and technology focus that the Regional Glide Phase Weapon System -- so when we say weapon system that covered everything from sensors through fire control through weapons systems -- and what technology needed to be matured.

So when you're in the glide phase -- which is higher up from the terminal, right, where a hypersonic vehicle is likely in its most vulnerable phase -- that's actually a pretty tough environment to be in.  And you can't take an air defense weapon and operate it there nor can you take a space weapon like an SM-3 and operate there, it's just a different environment. 

And so we are risk-reducing and maturing technologies to operate there -- things like seekers and coatings and materials for operating in that area, propulsion techniques, divert techniques.  That was the focus of that and it was a much longer term -- you know, it wasn't set for transition into a firm development program so that would have delivered something for hypersonic defense in the glide phase out in the '30s. 

So based on real-world data collections, we were able to take our system models, Aegis models, sensor models, ground-based systems and run the -- the data collected from actual live fires.  And we found that we can close the fire control loop with an Aegis ship that has already proven queuing launch-on-remote and engage-on-remote capability. 

So what the ship needs is an early look at a threat flying through the glide phase and leveraging its engage-on-remote or launch-on-remote capabilities in order to have -- and build that track.  Then it needs a weapon to get there.

So when you talk about that change from the Regional Glide Phase Weapon System into, now, the Glide Phase Interceptor program, in order for us to accelerate and deliver something faster -- because that threat exists today, as you know -- we have the terminal system, the Sea-Based Terminal which is in a state of evolution that's got more increments coming downstream to get even better at what it does, but we want to engage further back into the trajectory, into the glide.

So we looked at a number of different propulsion systems and front-ends and we released a broad area announcement recently.  And we just received the industry responses to that and so we'll be evaluating those.  And so I can't give you a firm timeline on what the acceleration is until we evaluate the industry concepts and then move forward.

What we're really doing in '22 is preparing ourselves for a very firm Systems Requirements Review.  So what -- what we get from industry today helps us to set those requirements and get them right before we commit towards going to a more -- you know, a development program.

And so I think that may answer your question, I'll just give you a couple more.  So if you understand where we are today, where we want to go in the future from a weapons perspective -- we talked about HBTSS, right -- so right now we can leverage seaborne sensors, we can leveraged land-based sensors, we have incorporated the ability to track hypersonic threats, but as you know it's a globally maneuvering kind of threat so you need to be up in space looking down.

So in coordination with Space Force and with SDA -- you know, the question going back to the use of the Transport Layer and the great work that SDA's doing for communications, you know, within the low-Earth orbit -- we're going to have a very robust and resilient space capacity to get data down to that ship from space if we can't catch it with our land-based or sea-based sensors. 

And so, HBTSS, C2BMC moving data to weapons systems, initially Aegis ships, we want to make sure that what we do within the confines of a Mark 41 Vertical Launching System for a ground -- for a Glide Phase Interceptor can be transported and be used at a land-based battery. 

So Jason, how's that for a long answer to your long question?

QUESTION:  That's great.  And just...

ADM. HILL:  OK.

QUESTION:  ... when does the terminal program begin to kick-in?

ADM. HILL:  The terminal program is deployed today and -- and is continuing to test.  And there is a future increment to that program, but that is funded and in development.  And -- and it's in the -- it's in the '22 budget and it's continuing.

QUESTION:  Great.  And you've got a cruise missile defense architecture line in the budget this year.

ADM. HILL:  Right.

QUESTION:  When -- when you look out beyond '22, when are you looking to -- ideally to deliver a capability for U.S. NORTHCOM -- Northern Command on that?

ADM. HILL:  So I'll -- I'll stick to the PB22 story today which is really to continue our work with NORAD and NORTHCOM to, you know, build out that architecture.  So I'm not at liberty today to talk about timelines.

QUESTION:  Great.  Thank you.

ADM. HILL:  Thanks, Jason.

STAFF:  OK, any other questions here?  Dan or Peter, any further questions on your end?

QUESTION:  Do I have the floor?  Sorry.

STAFF:  I -- I -- who is this?

QUESTION:  This is Jason Sherman, sorry.

STAFF:  Hey, Jason.  Did you have another question?  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Yes, if there aren't any others.  Admiral, I wonder if you could talk about this -- this funding that you are seeking for long-lead items and studying a defensive system for Guam.  As the material developer, are -- is MDA on track to potentially deliver a capability by 2026, as INDOPACOM has said they need this by?

ADM. HILL:  Yes, well, I would say it's -- it's -- it's broader than MDA.  So it is a department-level decision so I don't want to get out in front of the department on -- on where we're going. 

But when we talk about long-lead items, if you look at the architecture that you discussed earlier that was Aegis-focused, if you look at other architectures that are being considered, what we're looking for is the commonality in those in -- in '22 for -- for long lead.  And there's -- there's lots of commonality. 

When I say regional systems, right, there's -- there is a set of regional systems that, you know, we have options to deploy to Guam.  So the idea is to look at these differing architectures.  And right now, if you see commonality in those areas on things that we can procure to accelerate that timeline to hit that timeline then we'll want to move out and do that in '22.

QUESTION:  Great.  And I just want to pick up on the question that Jen asked about the -- the homeland defense underlayer.  Is it -- is it -- is it fair to characterize that as basically on the backburner?  That -- I mean, last year it was -- it was the centerpiece of your budget request but it has not found favor in -- you know, in the enterprise, shall we say, and no longer a priority.

ADM. HILL:  I wouldn't say it's no longer a priority, since -- since we do have investment in the budget.  But there -- there are some very serious policy implications, and so we want to make sure that we get the policy angles right. 

We want to make sure that it's still a need for NORTHCOM because what we've been able to accomplish in '21 -- and Michelle mentioned the Service Life Extension Program.  You know, the big concern back when layered homeland defense was first discussed was the concern that the existing fleet would start to lose its reliability over time while we also had this timeline for next-generation interceptor off to the right. 

Two big things, now we have a Service Life Extension Program and we're moving out there and that will increase and give us a hardware-based data capacity to really understand reliability.  You know, where we were back when we had this conversation last year or year before was that it was purely analytical.  And so it was arguable as to whether that reliability was going to fall off or not, and how early, right.  So you always assume worst-case. 

But now we're going to have real hardware because we're going to remove interceptors from the ground, we're going to upgrade propulsion, we're going to update one-shot devices, we're going to update the processors, update the threat categories, and if that makes those older missiles perform like the newer missiles, and so reliability goes up, capacity goes up when you do that. 

And so you start to close the gap, and NGI and the competitive award with two great companies moving forward with the number one requirement coming from the JROC being speed and schedule we're now being able -- we're going to pull in that timeline on first in placement, for example, which means we'll be testing a little bit earlier. 

And then with the reliability moving to the right we may close this gap to where the policy decision could be this is great the work that we've done with FTM-44 and what we'll do with the future tests, and it helps to make the regional systems more robust and we may not have to do the integration work in order to do the layered work.  So that's really where we are today. 

QUESTION:  Great.  Thanks. 

ADM. HILL:  Great. 

QUESTION:  You mentioned that NGI potential accelerated fielding, what -- you know, 2028 has been the date that was on the wall, and is there -- in your estimation, now that you have these two companies under contract developing this, what's the soonest possible date that you think they could deliver? 

ADM. HILL:  So Jason, I know it's been proposed, and it's a competitive -- make sure as we're running through we have two separate program offices firewalled away and all that.  And -- but I'm a ‘you've got to show me’ kind of guy.  So we just got started, right?  We just made the awards, the teams are just coming together. 

I think it's too early for me to declare that I believe those schedules yet, right?  I want to see them hit the knowledge points that we have in the contracts to prove to us that they are in fact delivering what they said they will deliver.  It's a really complex threat set, there's a lot of complex technology coming forward.  And so I want to hold on answering that question until we come further down the path. 

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) General. 

ADM. HILL:  All right.  Thank you. 

All right, Jen, you have one final one?  We're coming up to four minutes left, so (inaudible). 

QUESTION:  So just, on the top line, I mean, $8.9 billion a year ago your request was for $9.2 billion, I believe.  Congress gave you another $1.3 billion, so I'm just curious -- obviously Congress thought you needed more funding and now you're looking at a budget that's just ever so slightly lower than your request.  So can you talk a little bit about why you don't need to maybe kind of align with what Congress is giving you a year ago in terms of just ensuring that you are aligning with the strategy and things that Congress was concerned with? 

MS. ATKINSON:  Well first of all, I'd like to say that Congress has been very supportive and generous to the Middle Defense Agency mission over the past few years, and we greatly appreciate that.  Our FY22 budget request represents the best balance of -- like I said all those requirements and priorities across the entire department as well as the available resources across the department.  The department had to make really hard decisions this year as briefed earlier in today's briefings. 

We feel that the Missile Defense Agency FY22 budget represents the best balance of all those things within the top line that Defense Missile Agency has.  We can still -- even with the $8.9 billion that we've requested we can fill, maintain, and support the readiness and availability of the systems that are fielded.  We can still procure and deliver capacity to our war fighter, and as I mentioned we've reprioritized funding to be able to develop and expand on these new capabilities to get at the emerging threats. 

QUESTION:  Will you sending an unfunded requirements list to the Hill this year? 

MS. ATKINSON:  We're still determining that.  We have not yet submitted anything to the Hill.   

STAFF:  And I think we'll close it up there and let you guys go about two minutes early and start your long weekend.  Thank you all very much for ... 

ADM. HILL:  Hey, Happy Memorial Day. 

STAFF:  ... attending today, and your questions.  And have an incredible weekend.  Admiral. 

ADM. HILL:  Thank you, (Inaudible).  Thanks everybody, really appreciate it. 

MS. ATKINSON:  Thank you. 

ADM. HILL:  Thank you.