GAO Says MDA, Army At Impasse Over $10 Billion THAAD Requirement, Mixed Progress For MDA Deliveries

The Missile Defense Agency has reached an impasse on transferring the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to the Army due to the service’s requirement that it needs another $10 billion for the program, according to an annual Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

Both the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY ’18 and the Deputy Secretary of Defense have directed MDA transfer THAAD to the Army because it has reached full-rate production authority. The legislation directs transferring any missile defense program that has currently reached full-rate production by the time the administration’s FY ’21 budget request is submitted.

A THAAD interceptor is launched from Kodiak, Alaska during Flight Experiment THAAD (FET)-01 on July 30, 2017. Photo: Missile Defense Agency.

A THAAD interceptor is launched from Kodiak, Alaska during Flight Experiment THAAD (FET)-01 on July 30, 2017. Photo: Missile Defense Agency.

The GAO reported these findings in its its annual report on missile defense and MDA programs, covering FY ’17.

The Deputy Defense Secretary directed the Army and MDA to develop a memorandum of agreement to guide the transfer of THAAD and the AN/TPY-2 radar programs to the Army.

GAO noted the Army identified a requirements gap of over $10 billion to operate THAAD. The Secretary of the Army also issued a memo that he would not concur with the transfer of THAAD in its current state.

“There is currently no plan or timeline to resolve the issue,” the report said.

Separately, the report found that while the MDA made some progress, it did not meet many of its acquisition goals in FY ’17, the period the report covers.

“MDA did not meet many of its goals as expressed in the Ballistic Missile Defense System Accountability Report for fiscal year 2017, its integrated master test plan, and master integration plan,” the report said.

GAO said the agency did deliver interceptors for three elements (Standard Missile-3 Block IB, Ground-Based Interceptors or GBIs, and THAAD interceptors), conducted its first test against an intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) target, and delivered a package of integrated ballistic missile defense system (BMDS)-level capabilities that had been delayed from the last year.

However, the agency did not complete delivery of another set of capabilities by March 2018 as planned, specifically more THAAD interceptors or conducting a planned Aegis BMD test.

MDA delivered the planned SM-3 missiles, seven GBIs, but only 41 or 61 planned THAAD interceptors and delayed THAAD battery 7 to the second quarter of FY ’18. The report explained MDA officials said battery 7 was delayed because of a changing of Army operational timelines, “subsequently delaying the return of THAAD equipment from Guam needed for battery 7.”

The agency also missed delivering the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) software spiral/version 8.2-1. It was due for delivery in October 2017 but was delayed to December 2017 and then again to the second quarter of 2018. This version is meant to “play an important role in several tests of integrated capabilities, such as FTM-29, which was executed in January 2018.”

THAAD Lot 6 interceptors were set to be delivered by June 2017 but have also been delayed to the second quarter of 2018. GAO said THAAD officials explained the delay as “due to a component production issue as well as the addition of 12 additional interceptors to the fiscal year 2017 procurement.”

GAO noted MDA had many notable first tests during FY ’17, but found some continuing challenges.

For example, flight test FTG-15 was the ICBM-test intercept and used the Capability Enhancement-II Block I kill vehicle and Configuration-2 booster with new booster avionics and software upgrades (Defense Daily, May 30, 2017).

However, DoD operational testing officials told GAO the test’s complexity and objectives “had been scaled back from what MDA originally planned.”

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