BMDO Awards Boeing NMD Contract

On December 22, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which oversees U.S. missile defense programs, awarded Boeing a contract to continue development of the Clinton administration's proposed limited national missile defense (NMD) through 2007.

Valued at $6 billion, with the potential to grow to $13 billion if all options are exercised, the contract does not change the NMD architecture or any of the system's elements, though it provides a "framework" for an "expanded" test program as well as a "more extensive countermeasures mitigation program." In 2000, outside critics, an independent panel commissioned by the Pentagon, and the director of the Defense Department's office of operational test and evaluation all judged the NMD testing program, in varying degrees, as not being realistic enough.

While the contract period runs from January 1, 2001, to September 30, 2007, the BMDO announcement noted that actual future funding, aside from what has already been obligated for fiscal year 2001, will be "subject to review and approval by the Department of Defense and the next administration."

Though President Bill Clinton decided in September not to deploy the limited NMD system, thereby leaving the deployment decision to his successor, Clinton asked the Pentagon to "continue a robust program of development and testing." (See ACT, September 2000.) During his campaign, President-elect George W. Bush criticized the current NMD system as being insufficient, but a BMDO spokesman noted on January 5 that no one from the incoming Bush administration had yet spoken with Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, the BMDO director.

The spokesman said the next attempted intercept flight test by the NMD system may occur between March and June of this year, while the first solo flight test of the booster to be used in the system could take place in March or April. In the three intercept attempts to date, the last two of which missed, the system has employed a surrogate booster to carry the NMD's hit-to-kill vehicle into space because the booster that will ultimately be used if the system is deployed is still under development.