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Missile Defense on the Skids

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Its been an entire fiscal year since the Groundbased Midcourse [missile] Defense system underwent a flight test, a congressional aide told me this morning. That failure of the Missile Defense Agency to perform tests for an entire fiscal year has got both Republican and Democratic staff and lawmakers pretty warm under the collar. The congressional aide told me this morning that we are troubled because this appears to be a sign of problems with management at MDA.

The proximate cause of this unhappiness is the latest cancellation of a GMD test known as FTG-04, scheduled for July. The congressional aide says that a third tier supplier supplied a telemetry unit with an improperly soldered motherboard. Since MDA would not have been able to gather any data about the scheduled test even if everything else worked as planned the agency decided to cancel the scheduled test.

The Center for Defense Informations Victoria Samson, who watches MDA like a hawk, sent me an analysis this morning saying that this latest goof is alarming because it appears to raise questions about the GMD interceptors reliability not true, according to the congressional aide and because it has become one of many missile defense tests that have been called off That is absolutely true, said the congressional aide, who ticked off a list of GMD tests since 2001 six hits; one miss; one no-test, two tests without interceptors.

Army Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell, head of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Ala., said this morning that it is true that there has not been enough realistic testing of GMD in terms of countermeasures and interceptors, but he added that he feels they are now on the right track. The congressional aide did not disagree with Campbells statement, but said MDA has not done enough testing of the basic system, let alone countermeasures and interceptors.

Campbell also mentioned at the breakfast sponsored by the National Defense University that there is increasing recognition that much more ammunition needs to be bought for the THAAD and Aegis systems. The congressional aide said this came out of the Future Capabilities Mix study recently completed by the Joint Staff. Look for an amendment to be introduced in the Senate to restore some of the $400 million cut from MDA when the defense authorization bill is considered by the whole Senate, probably next week. The amendment will argue this money should be used to buy more missiles for these two systems.

-- Colin Clark

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