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MDA Will Say Bye Bye To A Billion, Or So

"A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money." Almost everyone knows the old quote by the great Illinois senator, Everett Dirksen. We bet our friends at the Missile Defense Agency regret the first time they heard it because the word around town is that they will probably see at least $1 billion cut from their topline by the next administration. And that's real money.

What makes the estimate even more interesting is that it comes from a friend of missile defense, Robert Soofer, the professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee who handles the issue. Soofer spoke this afternoon at a Heritage Foundation event on Asian missile defense.

But the spending whack may be substantially greater. A senior Democratic staff member, Frank Rose, reportedly said at a meeting last week that he would like to see about $1.5 billion cut from the MDA budget. Some Republicans are already gearing up to battle such deep cuts. However, Soofer did not sound like he would resist the $1 billion cut.

Where will cuts hit? "My short answer is, buy stock in Aegis and sell your stock in Airborne Laser," said Soofer, adding the broader point that Congress and the administration will want to put our money into systems approaching or in production, not systems in the earlier phases of research, development, testing and evaluation.

Much of that money is likely to be used to double the number of SM-3 missiles we buy, as well as increasing the number of THAAD interceptors. That was the recommendation of the 2007 Joint Capabilities Mix Study II, and both Armed Services committees included language urging MDA to do it. The Senate committee actually told MDA to make this its highest priority.

Soofer predicted boosting those buys, combined with the likely cut of $1 billion in the next administration, would lead MDA to slash spending on ABL and a host of other programs in the earlier stages of development, leading many of those programs to be downgraded to technology demonstrations.

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