By Dave Ahearn

The House Armed Services Committee strategic forces subcommittee added to some established missile defense programs but cut authorizations for some newer developmental programs, reductions that program supporters have vowed to fight in full committee action scheduled for Wednesday.

Cuts were voted in the European Missile Defense, Airborne Laser (ABL), Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI), Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) and other programs, while the subcommittee approved authorization increases for the Aegis, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and other programs.

Overall, the subcommittee voted to cut $719 million from President Bush’s request for ballistic missile defense (BMD) programs in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2009, for a net overall amount of $10.1 billion. That still would be a $212.6 million increase above the fiscal 2008 level.

That includes $8.6 billion in authorizations for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), versus the $9.336 billion that Bush requested.

The cuts come in an array of programs, spelled out in the measure that the subcommittee, in a “markup” session reported to the full House Armed Services Committee (HASC).

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who co-chairs and founded the House Missile Defense Caucus, was asked by Space & Missile Defense Report, sister publication of Defense Daily, how proponents of BMD programs will respond.

“We will [offer] amendments in full committee,” Franks said. “We hope to make up some of those dollars.”

He specifically cited the European Missile Defense (EMD) program that would be cut $232 million, saying that this sends the wrong signal to European allies and also comes as Iran is a growing missile threat.

Franks said that an amendment will be offered in the full HASC markup of the legislation that would completely reverse the $232 million cut in the EMD program. The subcommittee also directed MDA and the director of operational test and evaluation to submit a joint plan for testing the missile defense system involved here. It is the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. And MDA must report on its own how it will improve GMD testing, and report on missile defense target missiles used in the tests. The European system would be the third site, in addition to GMD installations in Alaska and California. EMD is led by Boeing [BA].

Franks also expressed grave concern with the $42.6 million cut for the ABL program, and the $100 million each cut from the KEI and the MKV programs.

Franks conceded that it could be far worse. For example, last year the subcommittee voted to tear $400 million (80 percent) out of the ABL program for the current fiscal 2008 (although the final cut then was only $39 million). This year, for the fiscal 2009 bill, the ABL cut in the subcommittee is a tenth that $400 million slice.

“It was almost beheaded last year,” Franks said. “This year it just got a haircut.”

Still, he is concerned about ABL moving forward, unimpeded. “I think that laser [technology] will one day be recognized as being to missile defense what the silicon chip has been to computer technology,” he said.

ABL is led by prime contractor Boeing, which contributes the heavily modified 747-400 jumbo jet aircraft, while Northrop Grumman [NOC] contributes the missile-killing laser system, and Lockheed Martin [LMT] provides the beam control/fire control system.

To recap the subcommittee authorization action, the bill provides increases for several programs:

  • $75 million for the Aegis BMD sea-based program. Lockheed Martin makes the weapon control system, while Raytheon [RTN] provides the Standard Missile interceptor.

  • $75 million extra for THAAD (Lockheed Martin).

  • $25 million for missile defense target development.

  • $10 million for a joint U.S.-Israeli short-range missile defense program.

But those increases were accompanied by cuts in many programs.

  • The $232 million reduction in the EMD program.

  • $100 million from the MKV.

  • $100 million from KEI.

  • $150 million from MDA special programs.

  • $50 million from ballistic missile sensors.

  • $42.6 million from ABL.

On the multiple kill vehicle cut, Franks expressed concern, saying that at a time when nations increasingly are gaining the ability to employ sophisticated warheads that can spew forth many items to confuse U.S. missile defense systems, it makes sense to have a system that can take out both enemy warheads and confusing countermeasures.

The subcommittee measure also supports $117.6 million for prompt global strike, funding research into technologies for an Air Force conventional strike missile concept, and a later Navy sea-launched global strike missile concept.

But no funds are involved for converting Trident nuclear ballistic missile submarines into subs shooting missiles with conventional warheads.

The subcommittee measure also provides increased funding of:

  • $5 million for modernizing GPS user equipment.

  • $10 million for space control and test capabilities.

  • $10 million for Operational Responsive Space capabilities.

The bill as well “pushes the Department of Defense to focus on near-term war fighter needs and to address vulnerabilities in space situational awareness as well as space protection.”

Pentagon leaders increasingly are concerned that the significant U.S. military dependence on space assets may be a problem point, given that China has developed the ability to shoot down satellites. China proved that by using a ground-based interceptor missile to obliterate one of its own aging weather satellites. Further, China used a ground-based laser to disable a U.S. military satellite.

Space situational awareness and space protection would counter that threat.