A group of GOP lawmakers is arguing that last week's high-profile failure of a key piece of technology for homeland ballistic missile defense shows that the Obama administration is under-funding development of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, The Hill newspaper reported.
The cause behind the inability of a launched Ground-based Interceptor to neutralize its dummy ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean is not yet officially known; the Pentagon has said it is conducting a thorough investigation.
However, it appears that the test disappointment was due to a failure of one of the GBI missile stages to separate, according to Riki Ellison, founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.
"Preliminary findings into last week's missed intercept test ... leads into speculation of a failure to separate on the final stage of the GBI rather than a failure of the kill vehicle itself or system, to detect, track, and discriminate the incoming ballistic missile reentry warhead launched from Kwajalein Atoll," Ellison wrote in a letter posted to his organization's website. He did not provide the source for that information.
"While it may take some time to reach a final diagnosis of the cause of the July 5th test failure, it is already clear that President Obama's decision to drastically cut funding for the GMD program since he came to office and to 'curtail addition[al] GMD development,' has drained funding available to conduct needed tests of this system," reads the Friday letter by Republican legislators to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The lawmakers, who all have senior roles on the Senate and House Armed Services committees, said the Obama administration had drastically reduced the budget of the GBI program, leaving it on "life support." They pointed out that in the last four years only two flight trials and three intercept tests have been held.
The Republican lawmakers -- Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Representative Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), and Representative Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) -- asked that the Defense Department promptly retest the CE-1 Enhanced Kill Vehicle in hopes of achieving a success. The CE-1 is a slightly modernized version of the original kinetic-kill vehicle that is presently aboard 20 GBI missiles fielded in Alaska and California as part of the GMD system.
Last week's unsuccessful test involved a refurbished version of the CE-1 interceptor's front end, according to George Lewis of Cornell University.
"We believe such a test should occur in 2013 to ensure there is no question about the capability and credibility of the GMD system," the lawmakers wrote.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.