The U.S. government notified industry last week it will not assume the prime integrator role for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system after concluding doing so now would add “an unacceptable level of risk.”

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) had planned a follow-on acquisition strategy to the current development and sustainment contract (DSC), called DOSP, to compete future GMD acquisitions. The current DSC is run by Boeing [BA] as prime integrator.

A Missile Defense Agency Ground-Based Interceptor is launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base, Calif. as part of Flight Test Ground-Based Interceptor (FTG)-15. Photo: Missile Defense Agency.
A Missile Defense Agency Ground-Based Interceptor is launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base, Calif. as part of Flight Test Ground-Based Interceptor (FTG)-15. Photo: Missile Defense Agency.

The plan included the possibility that the agency would assume the GMD weapon system prime role from Boeing. The agency posted a special notice on the decision at FedBizOpps on Jan. 10.

The DOSP strategy parallels a timeline executing Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) Increment 6 capability improvements, set to start operation from fiscal years 2019 to 2023.

Increment 6 includes integrating the Lockheed Martin [LMT] Long Range Discrimination Radar; command and control, battle management & communications system track; integration of the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV); introduction of advanced discrimination data; upgrades to engagement management and Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle conventional discrimination; incorporating safety initiatives for concurrent operations; and introducing on-demand communications and RKV-to-RKV communications.

Previously the MDA director chartered an Independent Readiness Review Team (IRRT) made up of subject matter experts from outside the agency. It was directed to evaluate the DOSP strategy and report on the agency’s readiness and posture to execute the strategy in the FY ’18 to FY ’22 period.

The agency said the IRRT judged MDA was not ready to assume the prime integrator role and implementing the DOSP strategy while developing incremental capabilities for the program “increased the Program’s risk profile.”

MDA said rapidly evolving threat assessments will only exacerbate these risks.

“Ballistic missile proliferation continues to grow as countries acquire a greater number of ballistic missiles, increase their range, incorporate countermeasures, and increase missile complexity, survivability, reliability and accuracy,” the statement said.

MDA implied this decision was impacted by the advancements made by North Korea in the last four years. It said in that time “adversaries have ramped up missile testing dramatically to include major strides in nuclear weapon testing and imminent integration onto an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) delivery vehicle.”

It added these threats spurred the Trump administration’s direction to quicken missile defense capabilities through a budget amendment designating a need to deploy 20 more Ground-based Interceptors (GBIs) for the GMD systems by the end of 2023.

The administration sent Congress a set of Defense Department FY2018 amendments in November covering missile defense, repairing damaged Navy ships, and increased Afghanistan troop levels. It requested $2.1 billion for another GBI missile field, initial procurement funding for the 20 more GBIs, 15 more Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptors, and 50 more Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptors (Defense Daily, Nov. 6, 2016).

The final FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act approved the amendment and authorized up to 28 total additional GBIs and requires the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to increase that to upwards of 104 interceptors (Defense Daily, Nov. 21, 2017).

The notice said the IRRT results, advancing missile threats, the scope of Increment 6, and the recent congressional direction to increase missile defense capabilities led the MDA Director to assess the agency was not ready “at this time” for this prime integrator role.

The agency will not pursue the DOSP acquisition strategy and with only one responsible source available, the current DSC under Boeing will be extended to address MDDE acceleration requirements, MDA said.

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“By addressing the current requirements with the existing partnership, the Agency will assume the least risk and the highest probability of successful execution of the directed acceleration of the critical BMDS capabilities required to counter the growing threat,” the agency said.

Concurrently, on Jan. 10 MDA released a pre-solication notice on FedBizOpps that said the agency intends to award a contract modification to Boeing’s DSC for highly specialized supplies and services related to the aforementioned additional missile defense funding.

It said awarding the modification to any source besides Boeing “would result in unacceptable schedule delays in fulfilling the Agency’s requirements.”