Contractors Push for Missile Defense Funding

Officials from two major U.S. contractors defended their missile defense programs yesterday in the face of nearly certain funding reductions, the Washington Post reported (see GSN, March 24).

Missile defense spending rose to about $10 billion per year during the Bush administration, but President Barack Obama has suggested cutting that figure by $2 billion in the fiscal 2010 budget, according to industry officials.

Many missile defense efforts have been plagued by cost overruns and delays (see GSN, March 18), and critics have argued that the nation has deployed systems without adequately testing them first.

"Missile defense under Bush was an experiment in acquisition," said Clark Murdock of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "We got a system that can be deployed, but what no one really knows is how well these systems work."

Officials from Boeing and Northrop Grumman, however, held briefings yesterday to defend their projects. Boeing is lead contractor for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program (see GSN, Feb. 3) and the Airborne Laser program (see GSN, Dec. 12, 2008), while Northrop leads efforts to develop a space-based missile tracking system and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (see GSN, Jan. 7).

"We recognize that the missile defense budget is going to come down," said Larry Dodgen, sector vice president and deputy general manager for Northrop's missile defense division, but "we think we have wise choices for the future."

The Airborne Laser has made strong advances in recent years, said Boeing Vice President Mike Rinn, who rejected U.S. Representative Ellen Tauscher's (D-Calif.) recent characterization of the program as "the definition of insanity."

"If the definition of insanity is breakthrough technology, then call me crazy," Rinn said (Dana Hedgpeth, Washington Post, March 25).

March 25, 2009
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Officials from two major U.S. contractors defended their missile defense programs yesterday in the face of nearly certain funding reductions, the Washington Post reported (see GSN, March 24).