Budget Bullet Aimed at BMD?

/ November 20, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Former Pentagon weapons tester Philip Coyle told Inside Missile Defense this week that he does not think the Obama administration “can avoid cutting missile defense,” noting the likely need for cash to pay for “higher priorities, and there are not many places where you can so easily find $10 billion year after year for the foreseeable future that could be better spent on important national needs, such as energy independence.” Coyle is a senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information.

And James Clay Moltz, an associate professor on the National Security Affairs faculty at the Naval Postgraduate School, said downward pressure on the Obama administration’s overall defense budget is likely to be significant.

“Missile defense spending will almost certainly be affected, but the Obama administration will also be leery of appearing weak on defense or hurting programs with significant prior investment, capabilities, or perceived deterrent value,” he told IMD in an e-mail. “For these reasons, I think we can expect a continuation of Aegis, ((Patriot Advanced Capability))-3, and domestic GMD spending (with some slippage in planned numbers and deployment dates for new hardware), a slowdown of funding for proposed European defenses, and cuts for less-proven technologies (like the Airborne Laser, the ((Multiple Kill Vehicle)), the ((Kinetic Energy Interceptor)), and ((Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense))).”

Lawmakers long skeptical of the outgoing Bush administration's missile defense policies are sure to get in on the action, with House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee Chairwoman Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) promising a "severe scrubbing" of the Missile Defense Agency's budget by the next Congress, IMD reported:

“We're going to finally get to a place I think where we have had a number of programs that have been moderately extended -- you know, not-full-funding, a-little-funding, you know, resuscitation funding, as we call it, resuscitating funding, just keeping them going, and make decisions on where we're going to go,” Tauscher told reporters following a Nov. 12 speech at a Center for Nonproliferation Studies event. “And that's going to be part of the hearing process that we start in January ((or)) February when we begin to build toward the ((fiscal year 2010 defense authorization)) bill.”

When asked if that scrubbing would include funding cuts to missile defense programs, Tauscher said she could “not speculate because we have a new administration coming in . . . we've got the Strategic Posture Commission, we've got a number of different things that are going to inform us, including where exactly our numbers are.

“And until I have that information, I cannot speculate and I won't speculate, but everything I think is on the table,” she continued. “Everything has to be reviewed; we're looking forward to . . . going back to regular order, where we have hearings, where we have comprehensive overview, oversight, and the hearing process will illuminate where we think we need to be going.”

MDA Director Lt. Gen. Trey Obering, fearing some outside the government may be "dated" in their knowledge of U.S. missile defense efforts, said the same day as Tauscher's speech that his agency stands ready to brief incoming Obama administration officials on the status of its programs.

Some related future-of-missile-defense-funding stories from recent weeks:

MEADS Missile Defense Program Undergoes Management Overhaul

Young Establishes Joint Missile Defense Analysis Team

Report Urges 'Renewed Emphasis' on RDT&E at Missile Defense Agency

Report Says MDA Should Play No Role In Cruise Missile Defense

Defense Department Opposes FY-09 Multiple Kill Vehicle Funding Cuts

Campbell: Army Would Need More Money From OSD to Run GMD System

-- John Liang