The leaders of a House of Representative subcommittee made several changes to missile defense authorizations in the markup of their portion of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Thursday today.

In their proposals for the NDAA, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and ranking member Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) agreed to require new work on space-based sensors for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the installation of air defenses at Aegis Ashore sites, transfer acquisition authority for operational missile defense systems within three years, limit the retiring of Army interceptors, recommend the procurement of additional THAAD and PAC-3 MSE missiles above budget request numbers, and more.

MDA logo

Rogers and Cooper highlighted issues in both developing adversary capabilities and Defense Department management problems.

“There is bipartisan acknowledgement that the strategic advantages we derive from our national security space systems are eroding. Not only are there developments by adversaries, but, we are imposing upon the national security space enterprise a crippling organizational and management structure and an acquisition system that has led to delays and cost-overruns,” they said in a joint statement.

Therefore they are convinced the department “is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of the problems. Thus Congress has to step in.”

Major proposals on missile defense issues include requiring the MDA director to begin the development of a space-based sensor layer for ballistic missile defense and information on its development, including costs, to Congress (Defense Daily, June 21). The proposal also requires the Aegis Ashore missile defense site in Romania to be equipped with “organic anti-air warfare capabilities” within one year and that the upcoming Poland site have the same capabilities within one year of becoming operational.

The mark notably recommends to the full committee authorizing funding to procure an additional 24 Lockheed Martin [LMT] THAAD interceptors and 147 PAC-3 MSE missiles above the FY 2018 budget request to meet levels indicated in the unfunded priorities list. It also prevents the Army from retiring GEM-T interceptors from the inventory until the Army Secretary submits an evaluation of its ability to meet warfighter requirements and operational needs without them.

“Broadly speaking, the Mmrk addresses the growing threat from adversary ballistic missile proliferation by recommending to the Chairman more than $2 billion in additional funding for missile defense, while also including mechanisms for enhancing the research, development, and procurement of missile defense programs,” Rogers said.

On the organizational side, the mark requires the secretary of defense to transfer acquisition authority for operational missile defense/defeat programs from the MDA director to a military department by the time the President’s budget is submitted for FY 2020. This supports the committee’s long term goal to move acquisition authorities from the MDA to a military department.

The bill requires the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) to review the contracting strategy for the Boeing [BA] Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system (GMD). This also “prevents the MDA from changing the strategy until 30 days after Congress receives CAPE’s review,” Rogers said.

The mark gives the U.S. Army until April 2018 to develop a modernization schedule “that acceptably meets warfighter requirements” for a replacement to the legacy Patriot air and missile defense system radar or have the acquisition program transferred to the MDA.

This gives the Army “one last chance to show it is serious about modernizing its new missile defense radar,” Rogers said.

“We have been pushing the Army for three years on this matter, and all we’ve gotten is delays and red tape.  Enough is enough,” he added.

The bill also directly focuses on Israeli initiatives. It recommends providing Israel with the $705 million in resources it requested for co-production and co-development of the Israeli missile defense systems Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and the Arrow.

Rogers thanked Cooper for his cooperation on the mark. “his vision and bipartisanship has been critical to getting us here today. I appreciate his wisdom and diligence and couldn’t ask for a better partner in tackling these issues,” he said at the markup hearing.

The committee also approved a missile defense amendment, offered by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) within a larger set of en bloc amendments to the mark. It directs the Director of MDA to provide a briefing to the committee by Oct. 1 detailing the potential benefits, challenges, and associated costs of an acquisition strategy allowing for at least two competitive designs for defenses against hypersonic glide vehicle threats until an operational demonstration.

The amendment notes the committee is concerned that the current acquisition approach within the defensive architecture may increase risk by relying on a single technical approach.