The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) objected to several missile defense-related provisions in the Senate’s draft FY ’19 defense authorization act in a statement Tuesday.

The administration objects to Section 1660D of the bill, S. 2987, which would require the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to develop a space-based missile defense intercept later irrespective of what the upcoming Missile Defense Review recommends.


The provision withdraws a measure of statutory flexibility on what kind of boost-phase intercept capability the agency should work on, first provided in the FY ’18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The earlier law said the MDA should only start working on the capability “if consistent with the direction or recommendation of the Ballistic Missile Defense Review that commenced in 2017” (Defense Daily, June 8).

Since then, the review was modified to be a larger scale and general Missile Defense Review.

The latest OMB statement said the administration strongly objects to the section.

“DoD is examining multiple ways to enhance our missile defense capabilities; directing the development of a space-based layer is premature at this point and creates a large unfunded mandate,” the statement said.

Similarly, MDA Director Air Force Lt. Gen Samuel Greaves on Tuesday said adding a space-based interceptor layer would require a “significant change in national policy” and the agency is studying the option.

Relatedly, the administration opposed several other missile defense provisions in the bill.

It objected to a section that directs the MDA to deploy a hypersonic missile defense program in conjunction with a persistent, space-based missile defense program because “DoD is currently performing a Defense Against Hypersonic Threats Analysis of Alternatives to develop options and recommendations on how to proceed.”

The administration said pursuing a solution before the analysis is finished is premature.

OMB also said a provision of the bill directing MDA to start developing a persistent space-based missile defense sensor layer uses an overly aggressive timetable. The bill directs MDA to begin developing this system by December 2018 and deploy it by 2022.

While the administration noted the Defense Department is pursuing space-based sensors and additional sensors could provide value, “the required timelines, however, are aggressive and may not allow DoD to pursue an effective and technically feasible sensor architecture in a realistic or cost-effective manner.”

The White House was also not pleased with how the Senate defense bill would reduce the Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC) program by $50 million for inconsistent capability delivery. C2BMC is the integrating element of the missile defense system, providing situational awareness and battle management capability.

OMB said it is “vital to integration of nearly all future ground and space sensors for improved BMDS capability, including discrimination.”

Another provision prohibits the MDA from obligating 50 percent of the funds available for C2BMC until the director establishes metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of the integrated ballistic missile defense system against operationally realistic missile attacks on areas defended by combatant commands.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report on the bill argued while C2BMC funding has delivered “vital capabilities” to the warfighter, it has been difficult to follow the progress of deliveries on $5.1 billion of investments in the system. The committee said MDA reports capability delivery goals and progress at the element level, but it does not provide progress on software intensive capabilities that drive how several elements must interact to deliver higher performing integrated BMDS capabilities.

MDA highlights the importance of C2BMC as an integrator, but “the way progress is reported makes it nearly impossible to determine how much cost growth or schedule delay has occurred” and to assess what capabilities C2BMS has delivered in the last 10 years as compared to original plans, budgets, and schedules.

“Thus, the Congress has limited insight into the progress and overall return on investment,” the committee report said.

C2BMC Joint National Integration Center Warfighters Photo: MDA
C2BMC Joint National Integration Center Warfighters
Photo: MDA

The statement said these provisions together would delay integration of the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) and the planned 2021 ballistic missile defense system (BMDS) enhanced homeland defense capability delivery by one year. That homeland defense capability covers improved defense of the U.S. from ICBM threats and hypersonic track and reporting.

OMB also warned the founding limit would delay integration of the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii, Space-based Kill Assessment (SKA) sensors, and Post Intercept Assessment development planned for a 2023 capability delivery by at least one year.

The FY ‘2019 budget request planned for the LRDR to be ready by 2020 as a mid-course sensor to improve target discrimination, the Hawaii radar to be ready by 2023, and the SKA network to be in orbit in FY ’18 (Defense Daily, Feb. 13).