Missile Defense Agency Seeks Big Increase in Space Spending
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is seeking a significant funding boost for a planned space-based missile tracking system in an overall 2013 spending request that is 8 percent below the agency’s 2012 budget, according to Pentagon documents released Feb. 13.
The MDA is also proposing to revive a competitive interceptor development program whose proposed 2012 budget was slashed by Congress last year, documents show.
The overall 2013 MDA budget request is $7.75 billion, compared to the agency’s current-year budget of $8.42 billion. This sum does not include missile defense efforts that are not directly overseen by the MDA, such as the Patriot Advanced Capability 3 interceptor. The Pentagon’s total request for missile defense efforts next year is $9.7 billion, down from $10.4 billion this year, documents show.
The MDA’s 2013 request allocates $297.3 million for the Precision Tracking Space System (PTSS), a proposed constellation of satellites that would track ballistic missiles during the midcourse portion of flight. Congress allocated $80.7 million for the program in 2012, or about half of what the MDA had requested.
The agency’s 2013 PTSS program goals include the completion of preliminary designs for the spacecraft platform, optical payload and communications payload, according to budget documents. The agency will rely on the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., to develop a PTSS prototype to be launched in 2015. An industry team is expected to be chosen in 2014 to build between nine and 12 operational spacecraft planned to begin launching in 2018.
Another major development program on the MDA’s plate is the Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block 2B interceptor, a next-generation variant of the Raytheon-built SM-3 currently deployed aboard U.S. Navy ships as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. The MDA is requesting $224 million next year for the SM-3 Block 2B, which is the subject of a three-way competition between Boeing, Lockheed Martin and incumbent Raytheon.
The MDA last year awarded the three companies study contracts for the SM-3 Block 2B, also known as the Next-Generation Aegis program, but Congress granted only $13.4 million of the MDA’s $123.5 million request for the effort in 2012. Lawmakers voiced concern last fall that the MDA has too many SM-3 upgrades in concurrent development.
Among these upgrades is the SM-3 Block 2A, which is being developed jointly with Japan. The U.S. Defense Department warned in January that international cooperative programs in missile defense would not be funded as robustly in 2013 as in years past. The MDA is requesting $473.8 million for the Block 2A program in 2013, a $53.2 million decline from the amount appropriated in 2012, according to budget documents.
Harder hit in the request is missile cooperation with Israel. The MDA is seeking $99.8 million next year for those efforts, a steep decline from the $235.7 million appropriated for this year, according to budget documents.
U.S.-Israeli cooperative missile defense programs include the Arrow interceptor, in which Boeing has a major role, and the David’s Sling weapon system, which is scheduled to begin flight testing in 2013.
The 2013 MDA budget request also includes $51.3 million for the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, which encompasses three experimental missile tracking satellites. The program also supports the Air Force’s space situational awareness mission, which refers to keeping tabs on objects in Earth orbit.