What’s wrong with this picture? The Obama Administration embraces the SM-3 missile as its main interceptor for both land- and sea-based missile defense, and then the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) cuts the number of SM-3s it intends to buy far below what it was purchasing before the system was selected. In MDA’s planned budget, the annual production run for SM-3 is cut in half for 2010-2011 from where it stood in 2008, greatly reducing efficiency and increasing the cost of each missile procured. MDA plans to restore production to the 2008 level in 2012.
This is becoming a pattern at the Missile Defense Agency. Shortly after the Obama Administration took office, it directed MDA to focus more on intercepting hostile missiles early in their trajectories. The Pentagon then proceeded to cut funding for both of the major programs designed to do that. It’s sort of like that old line about nothing good going unpunished — or only hurting the ones we love. Maybe MDA is counting on Congress to put the money back in, or maybe its force planners aren’t communicating clearly with its budgeteers. But if the government has a higher inventory objective for SM-3, which it now does, then cutting the buy and raising the cost of each interceptor doesn’t make much sense. It also doesn’t look like a case study in acquisition reform.
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