Missile Defense and Money

The Navy's successful use of a missle to shoot down an errant spy satellite last week showed how far missile defense technology has come, with help from a bevy of contractors.

Make no mistake, that was a serious shot -- caught on video.

But other news about the missile defense is not so electrifying, at least according to the Government Accountability Office. In a report released yesterday, a senior GAO official raised new questions about the management of multibillion-dollar Missile Defense Agency operations.

Among other things, the agency obscured cost increases by putting off work that should have been done last year and planning in a way that made it hard to assess the costs, the report said.

"In the past year, MDA has fielded additional and new assets, enhanced the capability of some existing assets, and achieved most test objectives. However, MDA did not meet the goals it originally set for the block," the report said. "Ultimately, MDA fielded fewer assets, increased costs by about $1 billion and conducted fewer tests."

On top of that, the GAO found that its auditors could not assess the performance of contractors and the effectiveness of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), the Defense Department's largest R&D program.

"Moreover, the tests done to date have been developmental in nature, and do not provide sufficient realism for DOD's test and evaluation Director to determine whether BMDS is suitable and effective for battle," the report said.

By Robert O'Harrow |  February 27, 2008; 7:00 AM ET missile defense
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Given the billions involved, sounds like there is fodder for some penetrating investigations by media, watchdogs, and armed services committees on the weapon system's value and Waxman's committee re the inability to determine the performance of the contractors--both hardware and services.

Posted by: Michael Lent | February 27, 2008 8:18 AM

The GAO is looking for and grading the MDA based on the plan vs actual accomplishments. In a research and development program, sometimes you get lucky and you bring your science in at the predicted costs, in more complex systems you get set backs, unknown unknows, new problems that did not figure into the original plan or cost estimates. MDA has been moving forward with a missile defense system and they have been careful to do live fire tests only when there is a reasonable assurance that they have done all they can to make sure that the testing is successful and adds to the further development of their systems.
Good for GAO for keeping an eye on this very expensive part of our national defense, but we must all understand that this program is going to have both good and bad news stories.

Posted by: MDA | February 27, 2008 10:47 AM

If one could extract BRAC, software improvements and service costs to upgrade existing assets, AEGIS, UEWR and growth in C2BMC etc, from the MDA list of accomplishments found on www.mil.mil dated Jan 14 2008. It is obvious that the value added against block one is on target. It is also obvious from this report that their is a balancing of assets in providing support to the war fighter and new development work. Remember the original mandate was to field a GMD that could negate a ICBM warhead. Time being a factor existing militry systems were employed. Boeing was and is very effective a a GMD Systems integrator especially in their vision on what changes were needed to upgrade these systems. The emphasis now is apparently to focus on BMD as a integrated sum of Boost, ground and TMD designations MDA is on target in spite of its top heavy oversight management by OSD, GAO, OMB and service interests.

Posted by: clifford@sssnet.com | February 28, 2008 1:59 PM

Posted by: John | February 28, 2008 10:30 PM

Tens of Billions for empire, crumbs for humanity. 3 Trillion for a war that should have ended 4 years ago. 18,000 people dead every year becauseof no National health care. Adolf would be proud. All he had was radio to lie to his people. We have 24/7 TV to repeat the big lies over and over, and war criminals who know they'll never ge stopped. America uber alles

Posted by: T. Michael | March 3, 2008 10:41 AM

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