Audit Finds Obstacles to Operating U.S. Antimissile Assets in Europe

U.S. soldiers work on a Patriot missile system at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep in February 2013. A new congressional audit has concluded that the Defense Department risks delays and inefficiencies in implementing its plan for European missile defense due to a lack of comprehensive planning.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
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Rachel Oswald
April 15, 2014, 6:47 a.m.

A new audit has found that the U.S. mil­it­ary is likely to en­counter hurdles in the op­er­a­tions of de­ployed an­ti­mis­sile as­sets in Europe.

The de­ploy­ment in re­cent years of an early-warn­ing radar and Pat­ri­ot mis­sile-in­ter­cept­ors in Tur­key re­vealed a lack of hol­ist­ic plan­ning by the De­fense De­part­ment, the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice said in a Fri­day re­port. Be­cause the Pentagon has no plans to al­ter its ap­proach to the de­ploy­ment of an­ti­mis­sile as­sets in Europe, the De­fense De­part­ment “risks con­tinu­ing to en­counter im­ple­ment­a­tion is­sues … which may lead to sig­ni­fic­ant delays and in­ef­fi­cien­cies,” the per­form­ance audit con­cludes.

In one in­stance, the ab­sence of com­pre­hens­ive plan­ning res­ul­ted in un­clear guid­ance be­ing giv­en about how dif­fer­ent U.S. geo­graph­ic com­batant com­mands should share radar data on bal­list­ic mis­sile threats, ac­cord­ing to the audit.

Since early 2012, the U.S. Army has op­er­ated an X-band radar in Tur­key’s Kur­e­cik province in ac­cord­ance with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “phased ad­apt­ive ap­proach” for European mis­sile de­fense. In 2013, a twin radar was de­ployed to the U.S. Cent­ral Com­mand area of op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing one in Qatar.

U.S. European Com­mand has re­ques­ted a tech­nic­al ana­lys­is from the Pentagon’s Mis­sile De­fense Agency about the ex­tent to which in­form­a­tion from the two radars can be shared. For now, though, the two radars are op­er­ated sep­ar­ately, which hampers “ef­fi­cient [bal­list­ic mis­sile de­fense] op­er­a­tions in Europe,” the re­port says.

In an­oth­er in­stance, U.S. Pat­ri­ot bat­ter­ies had to sit on a Turk­ish air­field for sev­er­al weeks in early 2013 be­fore they could be de­ployed for NATO air-de­fense op­er­a­tions near the bor­der with Syr­ia, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. In­ter­viewed Army of­fi­cials said that “for­eign dis­clos­ure is­sues” were not settled be­fore Pat­ri­ot units ar­rived in Tur­key, which res­ul­ted in ini­tial re­stric­tions on what in­tel­li­gence data could be sup­plied to part­ner forces.

“By not com­plet­ing im­ple­ment­ing ar­range­ments and pro­ced­ures for how to work with al­lies be­fore de­ploy­ment, Army of­fi­cials stated that they spent ex­tens­ive time work­ing with al­lies to re­solve these im­ple­ment­a­tion is­sues, which put a strain on Army’s lim­ited ex­ist­ing re­sources,” aud­it­ors found.

The cur­rent pro­cess for de­ploy­ing bal­list­ic-mis­sile de­fense as­sets in Europe does not defin­it­ively man­date a pri­or com­pre­hens­ive ex­am­in­a­tion of po­ten­tial im­ple­ment­a­tion chal­lenges. Pentagon of­fi­cials said they in­tend to fol­low ex­ist­ing pro­ced­ures for field­ing fu­ture sys­tems un­der the next phases of the Obama mis­sile de­fense plan, the re­port notes.

In 2015, the Pentagon is slated to de­ploy Stand­ard Mis­sile 3 Block 1B in­ter­cept­ors in Ro­mania. More-cap­able Block 2A in­ter­cept­ors are sched­uled to be in­stalled in Po­land in late 2018.

A Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice re­com­mend­a­tion that U.S Stra­tegic Com­mand “identi­fy and de­vel­op a plan to re­solve im­ple­ment­a­tion is­sues pri­or to de­ploy­ing and op­er­at­ing fu­ture BMD cap­ab­il­it­ies in Europe” was par­tially ac­cep­ted by the Pentagon, which noted that the com­mand does not have the man­date to ad­dress im­ple­ment­a­tion is­sues.

The Fri­day audit re­port is the latest in a series of re­cent as­sess­ments by the con­gres­sion­al watch­dog in­to Pentagon plans for European mis­sile de­fense. A re­port re­leased earli­er this month re­com­men­ded that Pentagon post­pone ap­prov­ing the full-scale pro­duc­tion of the Block 1B in­ter­cept­or un­til a de­cision is made on wheth­er al­ter­a­tions to the tech­no­logy’s hard­ware and soft­ware are needed.

Cor­rec­tion: An earli­er ver­sion of this story mis­stated the loc­a­tion of a U.S. radar in the Middle East.

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