The most immediate effect of President Trump’s just-released missile defense review is the call for a space-based sensor layer to protect against possible missile attacks, for which funding will be included in the fiscal year 2020 budget request, officials said Jan. 17.

In a speech Thursday at the Pentagon unveiling the long-awaited MDR, Trump said that the forthcoming FY ’20 presidential budget request will invest in a “space-based missile defense layer,” that will consist of a monitored system intended to “will terminate any missile launches from hostile powers, or even from powers that make a mistake.”

President Donald Trump discussing the new Missile Defense Review Jan. 17, 2019 at the Pentagon. (Image: Defense Dept.)

“Regardless of the missile type or the geographic origins of the attack, we will ensure that enemy missiles find no sanctuary on Earth or in the skies above,” Trump said.

The space-based sensor layer will ultimately make up a significant portion of U.S. missile defensive – and offensive – capability, he added. Officials did not reveal any budget numbers for such a capability Thursday, noting that the budget request is expected to be released Feb. 8.

The missile defense review, which has faced multiple release delays and was originally to be released in 2017, outlines the current national security threat environment and provides a blueprint for how the U.S. government intends to pursue advanced technologies that could complement and upgrade current missile defense capabilities to counter peer adversaries such as Russia and China, as well as “rogue states” including North Korea and Iran (Defense Daily, Jan. 16).

Space-based sensors and boost-phase defense capabilities are two such examples of advanced technologies, and senior DOD officials made clear Thursday that the Trump administration intends to move on an aggressive timeline to pursue them.

The Defense Department plans to include funding for experiments regarding the space-based sensor layer in the FY ’20 budget, Mike Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday.

Experiments would likely occur in the 2021-2022 timeframe. Griffin highlighted that no operational systems should be expected any earlier than the late 2020s, should the department choose to move forward with the systems following the experimentation phase.

Space-based sensors could help to monitor, detect and track missile launches from nearly any global location, and can provide “birth to death” tracking to provide an advantage to U.S. forces, the report said. It also calls for further studies on space-based interceptors, noting that positioning assets in space “may increase the overall likelihood of successfully intercepting offensive missiles, reduce the number of U.S. defensive interceptors required to do so, and potentially destroy offensive missiles over the attacker’s territory rather than the targeted state.”

The department plans to conduct several studies lasting about six months to “assess the technological and operational potential of space-basing in the evolving security environment.”