WASHINGTON — The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA)’s $8.6 billion budget request for 2012 would reduce funding for some of its established programs to pay for development of several new systems needed for the European missile shield.

Congress has been funding the MDA — and the rest of the federal government — since October with stopgap spending measures rather than passing new appropriations bills. An MDA official said Feb. 14 that a number of missile defense programs will encounter delays and cost growth unless Congress acts soon to approve the 6 percent budget hike it sought for 2011.

U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009 decided to scrap an existing plan to deploy a missile defense system in Europe in favor of a new approach that could be fielded in four increasingly capable increments. The MDA has since been working to implement Obama’s so-called Phased Adaptive Approach, but with a budget frozen at its 2010 level at least through March 4, when the current stopgap spending measure expires.

The Phased Adaptive Approach is built around the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system developed by Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors of Moorestown, N.J., and Standard Missile (SM)-3 interceptors built by Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz. In the first phase planned for this year, U.S. Navy Aegis ships will be deployed to European waters as needed, and a radar system will be placed in Southern Europe.

For 2012, the MDA has requested $565.4 million to buy 46 SM-3 Block 1B missiles, budget documents show. The agency requested $960.3 million for the Aegis system, which would be used to install the basic ballistic missile defense capability on two ships, upgrade two ships to the more capable 4.0.1 configuration and upgrade one ship to the most advanced 5.0 configuration.

In the second increment of the Phased Adaptive Approach, the United States would deploy a land-based variant of the Aegis system and SM-3 interceptors to Romania by 2015. The MDA requested $306.6 million for the Aegis Ashore program in 2012, which is also being developed by Lockheed Martin.

The agency requested $46.9 million to continue development of the Airborne Infrared program in 2012, which seeks to develop unmanned aerial vehicles capable of tracking ballistic missiles. These platforms may be ready for deployment during the second phase of Obama’s plan, but it is more likely they will be deployed in the third phase, Navy Rear Adm. Randall Hendrickson, the MDA’s deputy director, said during a Feb. 14 briefing at the Pentagon here.

The third increment of the Phased Adaptive Approach is based on the development of the larger SM-3 Block 2A interceptor intended to defeat longer-range threats. The interceptor is being co-developed by the United States and Japan and is planned for land- and sea-based deployment by 2018. The MDA requested $424.5 million to continue development of the SM-3 Block 2A in 2012.

The MDA also plans to have the first spacecraft of a planned missile tracking constellation on orbit during the third phase. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., is leading a prototyping effort, and the MDA requested $160.8 million for the program in 2012.

The final element of Obama’s plan is the Next Generation Aegis Missile, which is being designed to defeat ICBMs and planned for deployment in 2020. The MDA this summer expects to issue as many as three study contracts to firms that will compete to develop and produce the missile in the years ahead. The agency seeks $123.5 million to initiate the program in 2012 and expects to spend some $1.7 billion on missile development through 2016.

With spending ramping up on these new programs, the agency aims to draw down spending on more mature programs. Starting in 2012, spending would gradually decrease over the next few years for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the nation’s primary strategic missile shield. Spending on directed energy research and tests and targets would also decline in the years ahead, as would spending on research and development of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which is now ready for deployment.

The MDA is on track to field each of the four increments of the Phased Adaptive Approach on time, but the schedule will be in jeopardy if Congress passes legislation that continues to fund the agency at last year’s level, Hendrickson said. The MDA received $7.9 billion in 2010 and requested an increase of more than $500 million for 2011. According to Hendrickson, without the additional funding and the authority to spend it, the following programs would be impacted:

  • Manufacturing would be delayed for seven Ground-based Midcourse Defense interceptors, and flight tests planned for later years could be delayed.
  • The number of ships scheduled to receive Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense upgrades would be reduced.
  • Development of the Airborne Infrared program would be slowed.
  • Launch of the first Precision Tracking Space System satellite would be delayed by one year and program costs would rise.
  • Delivery of medium-range ballistic missile targets would be delayed by six months, and the unit cost would rise as a result of the MDA not being able to buy all of the targets in lots.
  • Production of 45 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptors would be delayed.