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Congress Pushing for Space-Based Missile Defense Architecture

The Missile Defense Agency is facing fiscal pressure from lawmakers.

Congress is intensifying its push for the Missile Defense Agency to focus money and near-term efforts to create a space-based sensor architecture and intercept layer for ballistic missile defense, all of this following the agency announcing a fiscal 2019 budget request almost virtually absent of plans and programs to go ahead on such capabilities.

A space-based sensor layer’s persistent vantage point offers hostile missile tracking from birth to death, a capability far beyond those of ground sensors. Missile defense experts believe a space-based missile defense architecture would dramatically help the lethality of both homeland and regional missile defense, especially against emerging threats.

In its FY19 national defense authorization conference report, lawmakers need to see a far more concerted effort from the MDA to create space-based missile defense a reality by authorizing additional funds, and particularly calling for plans that could begin growth and development of a sensor architecture in FY19.

The House version from the defense authorization bill might have directed the MDA, and other major agencies and commands associated with space efforts, to perform a plan and commence rise in FY19 for any space-based missile defense sensor architecture. But it would limit funds until a plan was given to Congress.

The Senate bill required the MDA to begin with continuing development of the architecture unless the Missile Defense Review stated otherwise. The review is expected to become unveiled very shortly. The document’s release was predicted to decrease late this past year, but was delayed on several occasions.

The Senate’s version also required the defense secretary to submit a study on progress and coordination of efforts on this type of capabiltiy among MDA, the Air Force as well as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The final bill mandates the MDA ensures its efforts to produce a space-based sensor architecture for missile defense which is works with DARPA’s work on the capability and would slow up the House’s proposed funding limitation to 15 percent, at the mercy of precisely what is decided as part of the FY19 defense spending bill.

The language builds upon what Congress requested for space-based missile defense rise in its FY18 National Defense Authorization Act while providing a development starting line to the MDA to check out.

The language within the FY19 NDAA also mandates the progression of the intercept layer for which Congress pushed in FY18. In that same fiscal year, the text requirement was contingent about what could possibly be directed in the Missile Defense Review. This time, the legislation states the intercept layer will likely be developed, whether or not the review directs the activity you aren’t.

MDA’s budget has consistently failed when it comes to advancing space-based missile defense despite rhetoric for a long time stating serious intentions to advance forward proactively.

While the MDA is funding, in FY19, adding two terrestrial-based radars inside the Pacific, the space-based layer efforts are stagnant and relatively limited to three lines of effort. One is fitting in with integrate a multispectral targeting system sensor on an unmanned aircraft to try the potential of an upcoming sensor.

MDA can also still fund the Space Tracking and Surveillance System demonstrators, but FY19 funding only sustains satellites as test assets.

The budget request also includes more focus on the Space-based Kill Assessment payload, that’s delayed by way of a year.

For some military leaders, this is simply not enough.

Gen. John Hyten, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, said a few months ago that the department has continued to check out space-based sensors. Some Pentagon leaders have thought the capability wasn’t ready for prime time and more and more studies carried out. But Hyten said there’s silly to wait any more, calling to the Department of Defense to rapidly move ahead to counter emerging threats, specially those hard to track, including hypersonic missiles under development by peer adversaries China and Russia.

The Pentagon appears to be making small steps alone to formulate space-based sensor capability since release of the FY19 budget request in February, nevertheless it hasn’t made any notable steps toward continuing development of an actual space-based intercept capability.

The DoD recently requested in a very reprogramming document shipped to Congress in June that $13.5 million in FY18 funds be shifted from elsewhere in the budget to complete multiple industry-based concept designs and mission architecture trade studies for any future ballistic missile-defense space-sensor capability.

The money would cover the completion of designs from nine industry teams in addition to deeper analyses.

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