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Audit Finds Obstacles to Operating U.S. Antimissile Assets in Europe

By Rachel Oswald

Global Security Newswire

U.S. soldiers work on a Patriot missile system at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep in February 2013. A new congressional audit has concluded that the Defense Department risks delays and inefficiencies in implementing its plan for European missile defense due to a lack of comprehensive planning. U.S. soldiers work on a Patriot missile system at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep in February 2013. A new congressional audit has concluded that the Defense Department risks delays and inefficiencies in implementing its plan for European missile defense due to a lack of comprehensive planning. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

A new audit has found that the U.S. military is likely to encounter hurdles in the operations of deployed antimissile assets in Europe.

The deployment in recent years of an early-warning radar and Patriot missile-interceptors in Turkey revealed a lack of holistic planning by the Defense Department, the Government Accountability Office said in a Friday report. Because the Pentagon has no plans to alter its approach to the deployment of antimissile assets in Europe, the Defense Department "risks continuing to encounter implementation issues ... which may lead to significant delays and inefficiencies," the performance audit concludes.

In one instance, the absence of comprehensive planning resulted in unclear guidance being given about how different U.S. geographic combatant commands should share radar data on ballistic missile threats, according to the audit.

Since early 2012, the U.S. Army has operated an X-band radar in Turkey's Kurecik province in accordance with the Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" for European missile defense. In 2013, a twin radar was deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations, including one in Qatar.

U.S. European Command has requested a technical analysis from the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency about the extent to which information from the two radars can be shared. For now, though, the two radars are operated separately, which hampers "efficient [ballistic missile defense] operations in Europe," the report says.

In another instance, U.S. Patriot batteries had to sit on a Turkish airfield for several weeks in early 2013 before they could be deployed for NATO air-defense operations near the border with Syria, according to the report. Interviewed Army officials said that "foreign disclosure issues" were not settled before Patriot units arrived in Turkey, which resulted in initial restrictions on what intelligence data could be supplied to partner forces.

"By not completing implementing arrangements and procedures for how to work with allies before deployment, Army officials stated that they spent extensive time working with allies to resolve these implementation issues, which put a strain on Army’s limited existing resources," auditors found.

The current process for deploying ballistic-missile defense assets in Europe does not definitively mandate a prior comprehensive examination of potential implementation challenges. Pentagon officials said they intend to follow existing procedures for fielding future systems under the next phases of the Obama missile defense plan, the report notes.

In 2015, the Pentagon is slated to deploy Standard Missile 3 Block 1B interceptors in Romania. More-capable Block 2A interceptors are scheduled to be installed in Poland in late 2018.

A Government Accountability Office recommendation that U.S Strategic Command "identify and develop a plan to resolve implementation issues prior to deploying and operating future BMD capabilities in Europe" was partially accepted by the Pentagon, which noted that the command does not have the mandate to address implementation issues.

The Friday audit report is the latest in a series of recent assessments by the congressional watchdog into Pentagon plans for European missile defense. A report released earlier this month recommended that Pentagon postpone approving the full-scale production of the Block 1B interceptor until a decision is made on whether alterations to the technology's hardware and software are needed.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of a U.S. radar in the Middle East.

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