Pentagon proposes smaller Missile Defense Agency budget for 2020
By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPS Published: March 12, 2019
Despite President Donald Trump’s call to invest heavily in new missile defense technologies, the Defense Department is requesting a decrease in funding for the Missile Defense Agency to $9.4 billion as part of the Pentagon’s proposed budget of $718.3 billion for fiscal year 2020.
That’s down more than $1 billion from last year’s $10.5 billion budget, according to Pentagon documents released Tuesday.
The decrease is to offset a surge in funding for the agency in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon’s deputy comptroller, said during a news conference about the Defense Department’s proposed budget.
She also said some of the Pentagon’s missile-related spending is seen in other areas of the budget that fall outside the defensive purview of the Missile Defense Agency, which develops, tests, and fields missile defense systems to help protect the United States, its forces and allies.
The Pentagon’s budget requests $13.6 billion for the Missile Defense Review, which was ordered by President Donald Trump. Released in January, the review sets guidelines for department-wide efforts to strengthen missile defense. It presents the policies, strategies and capabilities designed to guide future initiatives and programs for the next decade while also meeting international obligations and commitments to U.S. allies and partners.
Since its release, the review has shifted missile defense policy and called for the Pentagon to study a variety of potential technologies that could be used in the future to aid the detection and the destruction of incoming munitions, including space-based defensive weapons using projectiles or lasers.
“What we also see is we’ve invested $1.3 billion in specifically [Missile Defense Review]-related technologies that are not inside the missile defense agency budget but that are part of our missile defense and defeat program.”
Rear Adm. Jon A. Hill, deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency, reiterated during a briefing on the budget that funding for missile defense is spread through the defense budget in its partnerships with the military services.
The largest system request in the budget is $1.8 billion for ground-based midcourse defense, which provides combatant commanders the capability to engage and destroy intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile threats in space. This amount will maintain the deployment of 44 interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and continue work on a new missile field and 20 silos at Fort Greely. It also continues work on 20 more interceptors for a total of 64 by 2025.
This funding also allows for the ongoing development of the redesigned kill vehicle, which had been delayed by two years because of a failed design review. A new design review is now projected for 2020. The kill vehicle destroys incoming missiles in space.
“We determined the best thing to do is go back and assess that design and take the time to do it right,” Hill said.
During Trump’s visit to the Pentagon last month, he said the United States will invest heavily in studying new technologies capable of defending the U.S. mainland against missile threats, including advanced hypersonic missiles under development by other countries.
The MDA budget includes $157 million for hypersonic defense technology. This money will allow for software modifications and defines requirements and architecture for future demonstrations.
Stars and Stripes writer Corey Dickstein contributed to this report.