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GAO report questions viability of deploying U.S. missile defense system in Europe

STUTTGART, Germany — The missile defense system that the Obama administration intends to deploy in Europe faces numerous development challenges, raising questions about the overall viability of the system, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday.

The European Phased Adaptive Approach, which includes a combination of land- and sea-based inceptors, also faces potential cost overruns because of insufficient oversight during the acquisition process, the GAO reported.

As a result, “going into production before fully demonstrating system performance has led to rework, cost increases, delays and uncertainties about delivered capabilities,” the report stated.

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The report comes one week after an interceptor missile launched from California missed its target over the Pacific Ocean, marking the second test failure this year for the defense system.

The report warned that the timeline for standing up the system, set to deploy in Europe next year, could be too ambitious. The administration’s policy committed the Defense Department to a schedule “that could be challenging to meet based on the technical progress of missile defense element development and testing programs, and committed DOD to this schedule before the scope of the development efforts was fully understood,” the report stated.

The Defense Department disputed the findings, saying the GAO “inaccurately portrays the department’s acquisition plans.”

The report did not include recommendations on how to improve oversight of the program’s development. However, those recommendations will be part of a second report to be issued soon, the agency said.

In 2009, President Barack Obama canceled the Bush administration’s more ambitious plans for missile defense in Europe in favor of a more flexible program that relied on existing technologies.

The Phased Adaptive Approach will be integrated with European systems. The Defense Department has described the new approach as more cost-effective. Sea-based Aegis Standard Missile 3 technology is less expensive than the ground-based interceptors that were to be used under Bush’s plan, which called for sending 10 inceptors to Poland and an advanced radar to the Czech Republic.

In addition to concerns about integrating different forms of technology, questions persist over how NATO allies will be incorporated into the plans.

“Interoperability with friends and allies is uncertain; who will contribute, how, and the degree of technical feasibility and investment to interoperate with other nations has yet to be determined,” the GAO said.

vandiverj@estripes.osd.mil

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