Military leaders of missile defense efforts told the House Armed Services strategic forces panel March 25 they could use committee support in the areas of more predictable funding and in its efforts to push forward advanced technology efforts in discrimination and sensors.

Ground-based Interceptor Photo: Defense Department
Ground-based Interceptor

Photo: Defense Department

Recent events in Ukraine and North Korea have pushed missile defense for the United States and its allies higher in congressional consideration of the strategic environment.

“What is the most important thing that we can do to empower you to do the jobs that you’re so capably doing,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) asked.

Lt. Gen. David Mann, Army Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense was ready to respond: “address sequestration,” he said getting a small laugh.

The priority and best use of taxpayer dollars, “I would say is support for long range discrimination as well as to maintain confidence in our GBI’s that we have out there as well as leap-ahead technologies.”

MDA Director Vice Adm. James Syring said: “I’m comforted by the committee’s support of our sensor and discrimination effort that needed to get started to make the best use of the interceptors we have…and I just ask for that continued support. The second part is advanced technology and support to continue to accelerate those efforts, some of which we can’t talk about here but I agree with you entirely we can’t just keep building bigger and bigger missiles at some point we’ve got to bring that technology along and it’s got to be disruptive.”

Final panel member, M. Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, simply said, “Amen.”

Those efforts can be found in the MDA budget request; for example, MDA requested $122 million in FY ’15 to support discrimination improvements for homeland defense efforts.

The president’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2015 for MDA was a little under $7.5 billion, Syring said. That budget figure set out priorities and was strongly supported by the Defense Department, he added.

The agency requested $99.5 million in FY ’15 to redesign and improve the Ground-based Interceptor Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV). To date, $24 billion has been spent on the Ground Based Midcourse Defense, Syring said, and that figure is estimated to be $30 billion by 2019.

Additionally, the budget requested $79.5 million—including $29 million for military construction planning and design–to begin development of long-range discrimination radar with deployment planned for 2020.

The European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) continues to move forward, Syring said. MDA requested $123 million to continue developing Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland, and $226 million for continued equipment procurement for Aegis Ashore in Poland.

Phase 1 of EPAA is complete and, under Phase 2, the SM-3 Block IB Aegis Ashore site in Romania starts construction this year, expected to be operational by December 2015.

Wrapping up the hearing, subcommittee ranking member Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) said the single most important word uttered in the hearing was “sequestration,” and getting rid of it, and hopes his colleagues take heed and take action.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), echoed Cooper. “I have made it clear to the chairman of the full committee and to the House leadership that it is my number one priority to see defense sequestration in particular, rolled back and eliminated.”

Overall, Rogers strongly disagreed with President Barack Obama’s budget, saying it shortchanges American missile defense.

“The president will propose the policies he wants,” Rogers said in his opening statement. “But he can’t get them funded unless we let him. For my sake, as Chairman of this subcommittee, I want to make this clear: good luck. Weakness is a choice. I choose peace through strength.”

Cooper took strong exception to Rogers opening remarks calling them, “needlessly alarmist and partisan.”

Rogers, with colleagues Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Rep. Joe Heck (R-N.Y.), introduced a bicameral resolution with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) calling on President Obama to declare Russia to be in violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF)  treaty, “something we have reportedly known about for years.”