House appropriators are seeking to gain greater oversight into the Air Force’s cost control measures for the future Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missile, according to a bill report accompanying the panel’s fiscal year 2022 defense spending bill. 

The bill, which will be marked by the full committee on Tuesday, nearly matches the Air Force’s $2.5 billion budget request for GBSD, while including a slight $22 million reduction to account for “engineering and manufacturing development carryover.”

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test on Feb. 5 last year at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

“The Department of Defense has stressed the ‘just in time’ nature of GBSD to replace the aging Minuteman III weapon system, but the committee wishes to stress the equivalent necessity of controlling costs. The committee notes that the largest proportion of not just cost, but cost uncertainty, in the acquisition of GBSD lies in the procurement phase,” lawmakers write in the bill report. “Given that the program has achieved both Milestone B and awarded a development contract with options for initial lots of production, the committee directs the Secretary of the Air Force to make available to the congressional defense committees a quarterly brief on the progress of the GBSD program.”

The quarterly briefings would require information on metrics used to track GBSD’s cost and schedule performance by prime contractor Northrop Grumman [NOC] and its suppliers, updates on areas of technical risk, software development progress and the status of recapitalizing launch facilities. 

Northrop Grumman is set to build GBSD under a $13 billion contract awarded in 2019, which will ultimately serve as the replacement for the Minuteman IIIs, with the program estimated to potentially cost $264 billion over its total lifecycle. 

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), chair of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, introduced a bill in late June to pause GBSD development and instead focus on extending the service life of the Minuteman III missiles to 2040, as a means of potentially saving tens of billions of dollars (Defense Daily, June 30). 

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters recently that GBSD should remain unchanged while the Biden administration works through its nuclear posture review, adding that Congress is “not going to kill the GBSD program” (Defense Daily, June 29).