Talking Missile Defense
Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency, reviews the nation's ballistic missile defense system with participants at AUSA's Tactical Missiles Defense Conference at the Von Braun Center on May 19.

A top Army officer says the new administration's interest in cutting defense dollars is balanced with the growing threat from the world's adversarial nations.

Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told participants of the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter Association of the U.S. Army's Tactical Missiles Conference at the Von Braun Center on May 19 that the growth in "rogue nation" ballistic missiles of all ranges will continue to emphasize the need to develop ballistic missile defense.

"This is a transitional period typical of a new administration," O'Reilly said. "Our budget is flexible and responsible. It will undergo several reviews by Congress in a synergistic way over the next few months.

"Our budget must execute the Secretary of Defense (Robert Gates) guidance and that is to develop missile defense and focus missile defense on rogue attacks ... In fiscal 2010 we've kept the flexibility and production lines so that we can respond to the defense strategy that emerges from these reviews."

Many things are happening all at once to affect MDA and ballistic missile defense. Congress is looking closely at fiscal 2010 ballistic missile spending priorities while at the same time discussions are ongoing throughout Europe.

In keeping with the defense secretary's guidance, the Multiple Kill Vehicle and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor programs have been terminated and MDA is using the technology from those two programs in more beneficial areas, such as Ascent Phase Intercept research and development.

Even while budget and diplomatic discussions are ongoing, many other nations are continuing in their own development of ballistic missile systems. Excluding China, Russia, the U.S. and NATO, there are 5,900 ballistic missiles throughout the world.

"Nations are building indigenous capability in their countries. They are not just buying ballistic missiles. They are making them," O'Reilly said. "The threat has grown by 1,000 ballistic missiles in the last five years and it's not going to slow down."

To counter the worldwide threat, the U.S. ballistic missile defense budget now includes $191 million for the boost phase, $368 million for the ascent phase, about $2.2 billion for the ground and sea-based midcourse phase and $1.3 billion for the terminal phase. There is more than $3 billion for pervasive sensors, testing and integration,
for a total of about $7.8 billion for fiscal 2010.

Funding allows for a balance of capabilities, a response to war fighter requirements, and a pursuit of cost effectiveness and operationality in the development of weapon systems that take the "same number of Soldiers and makes them five times more effective," O'Reilly said.

"The senior Army leadership has been very constant in their focus on force structure. We need to provide more defense with a minimized force structure."

Systems such as THAAD and Aegis work toward that goal. So, too, does the "ground-based midcourse capability to defeat rogue state threats at the U.S. Ninety-three percent of the threat out there today is a short-range regional ballistic threat," he said. "We must have the capability to take out the risk. There is a critical need to increase
the number of resources to match the threat in short-range and medium-range."

MDA is also looking at "revolutionary" technology designed to intercept ballistic missiles in the ascent phase, to include the capability for early threat detection, tracking and intercept capabilities.

"We have a pretty good idea of where a threat is going to come from. Our capabilities give us a stand-off distance. We need to know how far away we can be to be survivable and still hit the target," O'Reilly said.

"In 2002, we had only developmental technology for THAAD, Aegis and SM-3. We've come a long way in the last eight years on how fast we can converge on a threat."

MDA's newest development initiatives include a land-based SM-3, precision tracking satellite system planning, risk reduction for extended-range THAAD and airborne infrared system to support ballistic missile defense. MDA, in conjunction with the war fighter, will expand operationally realistic testing in the Pacific Ocean.

"We are also continuing on with a very active interplay with allies around the world," O'Reilly said, mentioning Japan and Israel.

In other matters related to MDA, O'Reilly said DoD is moving to "increase the size of the government work force in MDA" and throughout the DoD by shifting contractor jobs to civilian positions. In addition, MDA is working to recruit engineers to locate at Redstone Arsenal as the agency re-locates most of its program offices and functions as a result of Base Realignment and Closure recommendations.

"We do have a lot of members of the work force in the Washington, D.C., area that have indicated they are not likely to move," O'Reilly said. "We already had jobs we needed to fill and then we had many hundreds of jobs to fill. We needed to take a hard look at the source of engineers."

Engineer graduates are being recruited from throughout the nation, and MDA has increased the number of engineers it hires annually from 60 to more than 150. Recently, the agency received 1,600 applications to fill 60 jobs in Huntsville. The agency is incorporating mentoring programs to help these engineer graduates transition into their new MDA jobs.

"We're going to be bringing them in in a very large number ... We're putting a lot of energy in that because we believe it will pay off for many decades to come," O'Reilly said.

Page last updated Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:42