Unquestionably, passage of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a good thing. This is particularly the case when it comes in conjunction with the tentative budget deal that reduces the impact of sequestration on the Department of Defense. While one can understand the dissatisfaction of some lawmakers with the process by which the Senate chose to move their version of the bill forward, without allowing amendments, overall the NDAA is a good document.
Not only is the NDAA good for defense, in general, it is particularly good for missile defense. The initial plan was to spend a relatively healthy $9.5 billion on all missile defense programs. However, the NDAA adds some $350 million more for several programs that are of particular importance. For example, there is $30 million in additional funds to initiate deployment of a second early-warning radar in Japan intended to provide enhanced early detection and tracking of North Korean missile launches. Currently, there is one early-warning radar at a base in northern Japan. The additional resources will allow for deployment of a second long-range radar in the next year at a second site. The deployment of a second radar will not only provide redundancy with respect to coverage of North Korea but enhanced phenomenology which is important to conducting an intercept.
There is additional money to improve the national missile defense system. $80 million is set aside to fix a problem uncovered in a failed test last July of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, the interceptor that would be employed to defeat a missile launch against the United States. Another $80 million is provided to develop an “enhanced kill vehicle and discrimination capabilities” for the GMD system. The NDAA directs the Pentagon to “ensure the capability” of fielding more sensors on the U.S. East Coast to guard against possible intercontinental ballistic missiles launched by Iran and provides $20 million for ongoing environmental studies related to potential construction of an East Coast Third Site.
The NDAA provides additional support for joint U.S.-Israeli missile developments. This is particularly significant in the context of the ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program. There is an increase of $173 million above the Pentagon’s $96 million request for these programs. Some $34 million of this increase will go to support development of the Israeli long-range Arrow 3 missile interceptor. There is also money to acquire additional batteries of the shorter-range Iron Dome defense system and to continue development of a third missile defense system, David’s Sling.
Subsumed within the $9.5 billion for missile defense activities is funding for a number of advances in capabilities that are particularly important to the defense of this country and its friends and allies from ballistic missiles of various ranges. A significant fraction of the budget for 2014 is going to furtherance of the European Phased Adaptive Approach and for ongoing enhancements to the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system. Also, there is money to support contracts with three aerospace companies to begin work on a Common Kill Vehicle warhead that would be usable with both the Ground Based Interceptor and Standard Missile-3 variants.
Even at $9.5 billion, the budget for missile defense activities is less than an analysis of the ballistic missile threat would dictate. Nevertheless, the 2014 NDAA does correct some mistakes in the Obama Administration’s budget for missile defense activities. So it is a good thing.
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