Defending Missile Defense

By John Liang / April 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), one of the co-founders of the Congressional Missile Defense Caucus, today slammed the Obama administration's proposed billion-dollar-plus cut to the Missile Defense Agency's fiscal year 2010 budget. Speaking at a Capitol Hill symposium sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, he said:

Secretary Gates announced President Obama's missile defense budget would reflect a $1.4 billion cut from last year's budget, which was $8.9 billion. Last year's Missile Defense Agency would have requested $9.45 billion for FY-10. So, this cut is worse than a $1.4 billion cut. It's actually around $1.85 billion, and since they are increasing other platforms, such as ((Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense)) and Aegis ((Ballistic Missile Defense)), the programs that have been cut have most likely been completely eliminated. Some people ask: If President Obama is going to plus-up some of our theater defenses even though it is going to come at the expense of long-range defenses and less-mature systems, is this really that bad? The answer is yes. It is really that bad.

Franks went on to emphasize the layered aspect of missile defense:

We must have defenses against short-, medium-, and long-range missiles. We must also have defenses to intercept missiles in every phase of flight: boost, midcourse and terminal. When we gut programs that defeat the enemy's missiles in their boost phase, we must fund another program that will step in to fill that gap. The Obama missile defense cuts do not do that. We know they are significantly cutting the Airborne Laser program, and the secretary was mysteriously quiet about ((the Kinetic Energy Interceptor)). I think this means it will take a significant cut. The program has already suffered serious setbacks because of budget cuts. Congress creates a self-fulfilling prophecy when it makes funding of a program contingent on the success of that program, but then it refuses to provide the funding necessary for success. It should come as no surprise that in such cases, a system will fail to meet knowledge points or will stagger in uncertainty as to what its objective even is. This has been the story of KEI and unfortunately we are doing it to ((the Airborne Laser program)) now. We are starving these systems.

As reported earlier this month, when asked about KEI on April 6, Gates said:

As for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, "looking at the boost phase is an area that we're going to do more R&D," Gates said. "Clearly, there is great leverage in working in missile defense in the boost phase, because you catch it before you have the sophisticated threats or capabilities that might emerge -- decoys and things like that.

"But we've got to figure out what the right way forward is; what the right balance is between the mid-course and the terminal," he continued. "We've got now a good mid-course. We've got a good terminal capability. What do we need in the boost phase? What kind of attributes does it have for mobility and location, etc? Those are the things that we've got to understand before we go any further with the boost phase."