Members of
House Armed Services strategic forces
subcommittee expressed concern at an April 17 hearing that the targets used in intercept tests for the
U.S. missile defense system
are inadequate and they urged
Defense Department officials to remedy the situation.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA)
has had two target failures in 42 intercept tests dating back to 2006, agency director Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering said. These occurred during a September 2006 test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system and a May 2007 test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, MDA spokesman Rick Lehner said.


Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.)
, chair of the
a lack of affordable and reliable targets is slowing down the
testing program.


The subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.), also expressed concern.


“I worry about the amount of risk being carried in the targets program and whether sufficient funding was requested in the budget,” Everett said. “I do not want targets to be the pacing item for missile defense testing. How can Congress help?”


Obering said some of the recent failures used targets from “the bottom of the barrel,” referring to the last of the remaining legacy target
vehicles from the Polaris and Poseidon families.
He also said inexperience on the part of some government and industry personnel working on the program
also contributed to the target failures. To remedy that problem,
a more disciplined process is now in place to ensure greater quality assurance, Obering told members of the subcommittee.


Congress appropriated $621.9 million for targets in the 2008 defense budget
, and U.S. President George W. Bush is requesting $665.4 million for 2009.

Comments: tbrinton@space.com