The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is considering options for future development and sustainment work on its primary U.S. missile shield that include holding a new competition for

prime contractor

, a role currently held by Boeing.

The MDA has not made any decisions on future contracting arrangements for

the Ground Based Midcourse Defense System (GMD), according to an agency official. Options include

holding a new competition for prime contractor


breaking up the GMD work into separate contracts, the official said.

The MDA asked industry for information on these options in a notice posted Nov. 20 on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

The request for information is intended to help the agency determine the feasibility of the options and the risks involved in

changing GMD prime contractors or splitting up

the work

, the official said.

Rick Lehner, an MDA spokesman, said the agency’s

consideration of

new GMD contracting schemes does not reflect dissatisfaction with Boeing’s performance.

“The company has done an outstanding job with GMD development, testing and deployment,” Lehner said Nov. 29 in a written response to questions


Boeing Missile Defense Systems of Arlington, Va., has held the GMD prime contract since April 1998. The system-development portion of the contract is slated to expire at the end of next year, but other elements of the deal, including

production of

ground-based interceptors and completion of a power plant and second missile field at Fort Greely in Alaska,

extends beyond that date.

The agency could award new contracts for the program in January 2009, according to the notice.

While keeping its options open, the MDA

currently anticipates

awarding a prime contract for advanced-capability

development work on

the various elements of the GMD system – including ground-based interceptors, and

sensors on land and at sea – with a separate contract for logistics for the fielded systems, according to the notice. Boeing performs both functions under its current contract.

Additional requests for information from industry will be issued as the MDA formulates its future GMD strategy, the Nov. 20 notice said.

Interested companies are expected to

start briefing MDA officials in Huntsville, Ala., on or around Jan. 7, 2008, according to the

notice. Boeing plans to respond to the solicitation

and believes that its experience thus far

enables it to offer unique expertise on the GMD system,

Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, said in a written statement.

Philip Coyle, a former Pentagon director of operational test and evaluation, noted that the MDA and Boeing have run into significant difficulty with the GMD program. The scope and complexity of the work

indicate that it would be difficult for any contractor to provide vastly different results overnight, he said.

However, competition generally yields better results than

sole-source deals in military contracting, and looking at other options

could yield innovative concepts for the GMD system


said Coyle,


a senior advisor to

the Center for Defense Information, a

think tank here.