The delays in Aegis Ashore Poland construction are related to long-term emplacement construction requirements, the head of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said Thursday.
“The lesson learned for me when I look at that is, if we go do this again, we have to kind of decide: are we going to have a long-term emplacement or are we just going to short term, go land it there, and pull it out if we need to. If you go with the latter, you’re less worried about the ability to survive earthquakes, you’re less worried about surviving through EMP attack…if you’re going to be there for a short amount of time, you can kind of lift and come out,” MDA director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said during a post Space and Missile Defense Symposium debriefing with Defense News on Aug. 12.
In speaking to these issues, he elaborated on previous comments in June. At the time he attributed delays to the Poland site, in part, to adding building automation and auxiliary systems to the construction. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and European restrictions only added to the delays (Defense Daily, June 25).
Building automation generally involves the computer networking of devices meant to monitor and control mechanical and security systems in a building.
Hill now adds that for lessons learned “don’t let the construction get so complex that when a great constructor comes in and bids, then they don’t have the right skillset to go do it. That’s where we’re at.”
He underscored how long the military expects to have an Aegis Ashore emplaced drives these construction complexities when considering a potential Aegis Ashore system for defense of Guam.
“If it’s permanent emplacement, then that’s going to drive lots of engineering and other requirements,” Hill added.
He said for future Aegis Ashore considerations he “would be an advocate to reduce complexity and maybe even go back to the requirement to be transportable. One of the great things that we did in Aegis Ashore that came out of this was really modularize the system.”
Hill noted the way the military deploys the system to the Aegis Ashore sites in Europe is breaking it into modules and sending it over, which works well now.
He also said he sees the argument to potentially disaggregate the system for a Guam-type idea. The sensor can be put in one place, command and control system in another, and launchers in a third location, akin to the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System.
“That’s pretty easily done given the modularity within Aegis today.”
The Army Corps of Engineers is the lead agency to build the site as it does in all military construction projects and is contracting construction to prime contractor the Wood Group.
Construction of the Poland missile defense facility at Naval Support Facility Redzikowo is being overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers under a $183 million contract. It is the second site after a sister site at Naval Support Facility Deveselu, Romania was activated in 2016. The sites aim to help defend U.S. forces and allies from a limited number of ballistic missile threats.
The Poland facility was originally expected to be delivered by the end of 2018, but that year then-MDA director Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves said military construction issues forced it back to 2020 due to bad seasonal weather and worse than expected performance from the construction contractor (Defense Daily, April 13, 2018).
When the fiscal year 2021 budget cycle started in 2020, Hill said the site was expected to finally be ready no sooner than 2022. He said the contractor was having problems with the last technical mile, entailing auxiliary controls, heating, power, cooling, and things that feed a combat system generally (Defense Daily, Feb. 2, 2020).
By March 2020, Hill said MDA and the Corps of Engineers were using a carrot and stick approach with the construction contractor, including refusing payments to force them back on track (Defense Daily, March 13, 2020).
Hill also said that currently his program manger is at the Poland Aegis Ashore site assessing the situation and working with the Army Corps of Engineers, which occurs on a regular basis.
“So I don’t want to quote a timeline. We have said no earlier than ‘22 for a long time and I don’t think that I’m ready to make any adjustments to the left or to the right until the program manager comes back.”