Pentagon Plans to Ax Missile-Interceptor Redesign Under Sequestration

The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, seen in a photo released in late 2002. The Pentagon on Tuesday announced that if sequestration remains in effect in future years, it would cancel plans to redesign the troubled component.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
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Rachel Oswald
April 16, 2014, 10:59 a.m.

The Pentagon would ax a re­design of the front-end kill vehicle atop its stra­tegic mis­sile in­ter­cept­or if fu­ture se­quest­ra­tion cuts re­main law.

Se­quest­ra­tion levels were re­laxed in de­fense spend­ing le­gis­la­tion for fisc­al 2014 and 2015. However, should these con­gres­sion­ally man­dated re­duc­tions slated for 2016 and bey­ond re­main in ef­fect, the De­fense De­part­ment plans to can­cel an ef­fort to cor­rect design prob­lems in its key mis­sile-de­fense in­ter­cept­or.

The De­fense De­part­ment re­vealed this budget­ing con­tin­gency plan for the Exoat­mo­spher­ic Kill Vehicle in a re­port re­leased on Tues­day, titled “Es­tim­ated Im­pacts of Se­quest­ra­tion-Level Fund­ing.” The de­part­ment also an­nounced it would elim­in­ate a sep­ar­ate pro­gram to ac­quire an ad­di­tion­al land-based, long-range radar in the event that spend­ing re­duc­tions re­quired un­der the 2011 Budget Con­trol Act will kick in, come fisc­al 2016.

The Exoat­mo­spher­ic Kill Vehicle is moun­ted atop the Ground Based In­ter­cept­or and is de­signed to des­troy in­com­ing bal­list­ic mis­siles by kin­et­ic force. The three most re­cent in­ter­cept tests that em­ployed the kin­et­ic tech­no­logy all ended in fail­ure, lead­ing the Pentagon’s head of weapons test­ing to re­com­mend a re­design earli­er this year. The long-range in­ter­cept­or is a crit­ic­al ele­ment of the broad­er Ground-based Mid­course De­fense sys­tem, which is con­sidered the prin­cip­al U.S. de­fense against a po­ten­tial stra­tegic mis­sile at­tack.

The de­part­ment’s Mis­sile De­fense Agency an­nounced in March it would seek a re­design of the EKV tech­no­logy and re­ques­ted $100 mil­lion for the pro­ject in fisc­al 2015. Total fund­ing for the pro­ject from fisc­al 2015 through fisc­al 2019 was planned to be $738 mil­lion. The bulk of pro­ject fund­ing was slated to come in fisc­al 2016 and 2017.

The Mis­sile De­fense Agency last month said it was re­quest­ing $80 mil­lion for the radar in the up­com­ing fisc­al year, which starts Oct. 1. The sensor is ex­pec­ted to mon­it­or the Pa­cific Ocean, in line with a dir­ect­ive by Con­gress un­der the fisc­al 2014 De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act to de­ploy an ad­di­tion­al X-band radar that would fo­cus on any threats com­ing from North Korea.

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