The Pentagon is postponing plans to request congressional approval for a multiyear production contract for a new missile intended for fielding in Romania.
The Standard Missile 3 Block 1B is slated to be deployed in Romania next year as part of the Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" for European missile defense. Additionally, sea-based variants of the interceptor, which is designed to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, are to be fielded on warships based in the Mediterranean.
However, the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency has determined the antimissile technology has not yet fulfilled all of the requirements to warrant a multiyear production order worth $3 billion to producer Raytheon, Inside Defense reported on Friday.
MDA spokesman Rick Lehner, in an email to the newsletter, said the agency still needs to show evidence of a consistent need for the antimissile technology, a stable design, reliable funding, a realistic price projection and the probability of significant savings compared to a yearly acquisition order.
The Pentagon is deferring until fiscal 2016 any effort to seek congressional authorization for a multiyear contract on the interceptor, according to Inside Defense.
Congress' watchdog organization in a report issued earlier this month recommended the Missile Defense Agency hold off on ordering full production of the missile until a decision is made about needed modifications to the system's hardware or software and until any design changes have been proven through testing. The Government Accountability Office recommendation followed an intercept trial last September in which one of the launched Block 1B missiles failed to perform for reasons not yet disclosed.
Some funds planned to purchase Block 1B systems between fiscal 2015 and fiscal 2019 have been shifted to other MDA initiatives. This was due to congressionally mandated sequestration cuts, which resulted in a "realignment of funds to higher priority ballistic missile defense system" activities, Lehner said.
The Defense Department anticipates fielding 100 Block 1B interceptors as part of the second phase of the administration's European missile defense initiative. Amid concerns about the possibility of new Russian incursions against Eastern European countries, the timing of deployment of U.S. antimissile systems on the continent has taken on renewed geopolitical prominence.
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.