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U.S. Missile Defense Costs Skyrocket

The U.S. Government Accountability Office said Monday that missile defense program costs could exceed expectations by $2 billion to $3 billion, the New York Times reported (see GSN, Feb. 26).

The report came as the Defense Department studies strategies for reducing missile shield development costs, possibly by cutting some programs.

The Missile Defense Agency's costs for weapon development and deployment since 2002 have nearly reached $56 billion, and another $50 billion is likely to be necessary in the next half-decade, according to the GAO report.

The agency needs to be more precise in its budgeting, said congressional auditors, who complained that for the last six years they have been unable to assess MDA actual expenses versus its baseline costs.

Some projects are already near or at operational status, such as ground-based interceptors deployed in Alaska and California or new Patriot missile defense systems. However, programs that have a longer time line, such as the Airborne Laser, could face greater scrutiny, defense analysts said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is likely to try to cut $2 billion in annual spending from missile defense projects, sand James McAleese, a consultant for defense contractors. He identified the Airborne Laser (see GSN, Dec. 12, 2008) and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (see GSN, Jan. 7) as systems that could face cuts.

The individual systems are intended to work as part of a greater whole, warned Mira Ricardel of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, which is developing the laser that would be mounted on 747 aircraft. "You can't just pull these things out and not have a broader impact," she said.

The GAO report also stated that the Missile Defense Agency has pressed forward with production of some systems even as they faced delays in testing.

The Missile Defense Agency plans improvements both to its budget and program management, said spokesman Richard Lehner. A new master plan on testing is also anticipated soon (Christopher Drew, New York Times, March 17).

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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