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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Pentagon Seeks Missile Defense Budget Increase, Reorganization
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Wade Boese

The Bush administration requested nearly $8.3 billion for ballistic missile defenses—a $3 billion increase over current spending levels—as part of the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2002 amended budget request, which it unveiled June 27. The proposed budget also outlines a reorganization and reorientation of U.S. missile defense programs.

In the budget, President George W. Bush requested the largest sum ever—a little more than $7 billion—for the Pentagon office in charge of overseeing ballistic missile defense programs, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO). The other $1.3 billion in next year’s budget is allocated to missile defense programs administrated by the different military services. Until now, the highest request for BMDO over its 17-year history, including when it was known as the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, was $5.4 billion in fiscal year 1993.

The BMDO budget request allocates no funds for deployment of missile defenses, and the administration has indicated that BMDO will now concentrate its efforts on research and development (R&D). “Programs showing success will move forward towards deployment as soon as practical,” a BMDO spokesperson said. The goal, according to the spokesperson, is to have “one or more [systems] ready for deployment as part of an integrated layered defense between ‘04 and ‘08.”

The shift in emphasis suggests that missile defense programs will be driven by testing developments rather than by arbitrary deadlines, a change that has been recommended in several high-profile government evaluations. According to the spokesperson, “There is no deployment decision and won’t be until the technologies are evaluated and tested.”

Because BMDO will be focusing on research and development, it is transferring control of current programs that it believes are mature to specific branches of the military. The Army will assume responsibility for the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) and the Medium Extended Air Defense System, a joint project with Germany and Italy that will employ the PAC-3 interceptor. The Navy will run the Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense program. All of these systems are targeted at defending against lower-tier threats, such as cruise missiles and short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

At the same time, BMDO will assume responsibility for Air Force missile defense programs whose development is not as advanced. Specifically, BMDO will take over the two anti-missile laser programs, the Airborne Laser and the Space Based Laser. BMDO will also take the lead on the Space-Based Infrared System-low, a planned constellation of satellites in low-earth orbit intended to track ballistic missiles and discriminate between warheads and decoys.

The programs that BMDO administrates will be funded and grouped according to the stage of flight—boost, mid-course, or terminal—at which it will attempt to intercept the target.

The largest portion of the proposed BMDO budget, $3.9 billion, will be aimed at developing ground- and ship-based interceptors to stop warheads during the midcourse phase, when the warhead is moving through space. Because the midcourse stage is the longest phase, it potentially permits multiple chances to destroy a warhead, but it is also the time in which an attacker could most effectively employ countermeasures, such as decoys, to beat a defense. The Clinton national missile defense system, which uses ground-based interceptors and which BMDO considers the most mature of the upper-tier programs, falls into this category.

Programs dedicated to defending against warheads during the terminal, or re-entry, stage will be given $968 million. This stage is very short, approximately 30 seconds, and possible defenses will most likely be geared toward countering slower, short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

A total of $685 million will be devoted to technologies aimed at knocking out missiles after their launch, when their rocket engines are still burning—a relatively brief period of one to five minutes. At this time, the missile is moving relatively slowly, it has a highly visible infrared signature, and it has not deployed any decoys.

Within the boost-phase category, BMDO will explore lasers, both space-based and airborne, as well as sea- and space-based interceptors designed to destroy their targets through collisions. An estimated $40-50 million will be allocated for exploring the space-based interceptor.