Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Admiral James Syring said the
government was requesting about $300 million in fiscal 2015 to
redesign the Raytheon Co "kill vehicle" that hits and destroys an
enemy missile on contact, add a new long-range radar, and fund other
measures to helping the system better identify, track and destroy
potential enemy missiles.
The agency's budget request, which must still be approved by
Congress, also funds longer-term initiatives to improve the system a
decade after what were essentially prototypes to be rushed into
Overall, the budget requests $8.5 billion for missile defense,
including about $7.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency. Missile
defense is one of the biggest items in the Pentagon's annual budget,
although Republicans have faulted the Obama administration for
scaling back funding in recent years.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the budget, which was shaped by a
major review of defense strategy, underscored the continued
importance of missile defense, along with space, cyber and special
operations, giving rapidly emerging threats.
Syring said the Bush administration's decision to deploy the
fledgling missile defense system in 2004 was aimed at countering "a
very real threat," but it cut short systems engineering and testing
of the system. A slower process would have avoided some of the
problems seen now, he said.
Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall told a conference last week
that the reviews of the program had revealed "bad engineering" on
the current system.
Syring said reforms were needed now, especially given Hagel's
decision to add 14 more interceptors to the 30 in place in
California and Alaska.
"The final step now is to step back ... to now look at this from a
bottoms-up design standpoint and not just keep making reliability
improvements ... on the margin," Syring said.
He said the goal was to deploy a redesigned kill vehicle, new
long-range radar and other measures by 2020. The Pentagon said the
new kill vehicle would be built with a modular, open architecture
and designed with common interfaces to make upgrades easier, and
help broaden the vendor and supplier base.
Syring said decisions would be made soon on how to proceed with the
redesign of the kill vehicle, factoring in schedule, cost and price.
He did not rule out a competition despite the tight schedule of
buying 14 new interceptors by 2017.
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"I would not shy away from competition if that was the right
answer," Syring told reporters. He said the acquisition plan would
help inform plans for buying the new interceptors, something now due
to begin in fiscal 2016.
The government's funding of early design work on a new common kill
vehicle by Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp meant the
agency could choose from three "viable industry concepts," he said.
The fiscal 2015 budget also continues to fund that work, Syring
said, noting that the effort was aimed at developing a kill vehicle
that could be used on a ground-based interceptor, a
Standard-Missile-3 or some future system.
Syring said a review of a July 5 intercept failure was ongoing but
officials were nearing an understanding of the root cause. It was
not an issue involving simple quality problems, he said. The next
intercept test is planned for this summer.
Riki Ellison, chairman of the nonprofit Missile Defense Advocacy
Alliance, welcomed the funding increase for missile defense programs
and said efforts to modernize the current system were overdue.
"It unequivocally has to be modernized, redesigned and fully
integrated to handle the upcoming advancing threats of Iran, North
Korea and others," Ellison said.
The budget also funds a seventh Terminal
High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery built by Lockheed, and 31 THAAD
interceptors, as well as 70 new Missile Segment Enhancement missiles built by
Lockheed for a cost of $420 million. Raytheon builds the AN/TPY-2 radar used by
the THAAD system.
(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart; editing by Bill Trott,
Jonathan Oatis and Ken Wills)
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