The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which the House could vote on Thursday, calls on the Pentagon to speed up modernization of the nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic-missile fleet and air-launched cruise missiles.
The unified National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) picked up House language requiring the Pentagon to find some way of speeding up the programs. The bill includes some extra program funding that could hasten the first downselects in the big Air Force initiatives.
The unified NDAA would authorize some $700 million for the Long Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO), which is 13 percent more than the White House requested. The extra $85 million authorized for fiscal year 2019 would pay to speed up the program, according to the NDAA conference report published Tuesday.
The bill likewise authorizes more than requested for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrence (GBSD) in 2019: $415 million. The 20 percent boost from the request, about a $70 million plus-up, would pay to accelerate the technology-maturation phase of the program, conferees wrote.
Exactly how to grease these nuclear modernization efforts would, if the NDAA becomes law, be determined by the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, in consultation with the secretary of the Air Force. The two would be on the hook for a report to Congress, due no later than 120 days after the NDAA is signed.
“For the GBSD, the [report] provision would require the plans, when executed, to recapitalize the full intercontinental ballistic missile system without phasing or splitting the program,” lawmakers wrote in the conference report. “For both programs, the provision would require the plans to assess the benefits, risks, feasibility, costs, and cost savings of various options for accelerating the programs.”
Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Raytheon [RTN] are maturing designs for the new air-launched LRSO cruise missile under four-and-a-half-year contracts awarded in 2017 and worth about $900 million each. The B-21 Raider Northrop Grumman [NOC] is developing could carry the LRSO, which would be tipped with W80 nuclear warheads.
Boeing [BA] and Northrop Grumman are working on competing designs for new intercontinental ballistic missile systems under GBSD. The three-year contracts are worth about $350 million and $330 million, respectively. GBSD will replace legacy Minuteman III missiles, which are mostly armed with W78 nuclear warheads made by the Department of Energy.
The Air Force plans to deploy GBSD and LRSO beginning in the late 2020s.