The leader of Air Force Global Strike Command expects the cost of the service’s new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to increase in the short term, he said April 17.

However, Gen. Timothy Ray is not concerned about the impact to the ongoing Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, as the cost will likely then go down after the service makes a source selection decision, he said Wednesday during a media roundtable event in Washington, D.C.

Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Timothy Ray addresses Airmen during an all call at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Feb. 20, 2019. The general made a two-day visit to the base and Kirtland’s 377th Air Base Wing, having meals with 377th ABW Airmen, receiving briefings and meeting with wing leadership and key spouses. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II)

The expected raised cost will pay for an overhaul of the existing missile silos, and other infrastructure improvements, he said. Once those efforts are complete, the Air Force can use the upgraded facilities to house its new missiles, saving cost overall in the program.

“Our estimates are in the billions of savings over the lifespan of the weapon,” he added, noting several times that he considers the GBSD program to be a model for Air Force acquisition efforts, and touting its digital modeling and engineering processes that have sped up development.

“Typically, by this stage you would be on your second design cycle on this milestone,” he said. “We’re past nine with both contenders, and the insights are incredible.”

Boeing [BA], who developed the Air Force’s current Minuteman III ICBMs, is competing with Northrop Grumman [NOC] to build the next nuclear missile arsenal, expected to be fielded in the late 2020s.

In 2017, each vendor was awarded up to $359 million for a 36-month technology and risk reduction phase. The Air Force is expected to down-select to one vendor for the engineering and manufacturing development phase in 2020. The service’s fiscal year 2020 presidential budget request includes over $570 million in research, development, test and evaluation funding for the program, up from about $414 million enacted in FY ‘19.

The Air Force budgeted nearly $22 billion in research, development, test and engineering funds for the GBSD program through fiscal year 2024, including over $888 million that has already been spent, according to the service’s FY ’20 budget justification book. The Arms Control Association reported in 2017 that the GBSD program was expected to cost about $100 billion.