| WASHINGTON, April 1
WASHINGTON, April 1 The U.S. missile defense
system could see additional costs and delays after several test
failures and technical challenges in 2013, a congressional
watchdog agency warned in a new report released Tuesday.
The U.S. government has already spent $98 billion since 2002
to develop a complex, layered system to defend against enemy
ballistic missile attacks, with an additional $38 billion to be
spent through fiscal 2018, according to the report by the
Government Accountability Office.
But continued problems with key aspects of the program,
including the ground-based midcourse defense managed by Boeing
Co, could drive the costs of U.S. missile defense system
even higher in coming years, the GAO said.
The report also faulted the U.S. Missile Defense Agency for
what it called "unreliable" and incomplete cost estimates, and
recommended steps to improve the agency's schedule baselines.
The report said the agency made some significant progress
with its acquisition programs in fiscal year 2013, including the
first operational system-level flight test involving multiple
elements of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS).
However, two key programs - a new missile developed by
Raytheon Co for the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile
Defense system and Boeing's ground-based system - had test
failures in 2013 and further issues to resolve, the report said.
The GAO said the failure of an SM-3 Block 1B interceptor in
a September 2013 flight test means that a key component may need
to be redesigned, necessitating additional flight testing.
It said there had been three flight test anomalies with the
current tied to the recent test failure, and officials were now
considering design changes.
The July 2013 intercept failure of the Ground-based
Midcourse Defense (GMD) system meant the program was not able to
see if software upgrades planned for the entire fleet of
ground-based interceptors were effective, it said.
The Missile Defense Agency earlier this month announced
plans to redesign the kill vehicle, build a new radar and make
other changes to improve the reliability and performance of the
GMD system in coming years.
The GAO recommended additional flight testing for both
programs, and urged Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's acquisition
chief to delay full rate production of several hundred SM-3
Block 1B missiles until the testing proved the missile was
The report also recommended the agency test the Raytheon
kill vehicle that failed to separate during the July 2013 test
of ground-based interceptors once the cause of the test failure
was determined, since that interceptor served as the primary
defense of the United States against enemy missile attacks.
The report said the Pentagon partially concurred with the
report's recommendation for further testing of the SM-3 Block 1B
missile, but said the decision to test the Raytheon kill vehicle
would be made by the head of the Missile Defense Agency, based
on the judgment of top Pentagon officials and combatant
commanders on the need for a test.
The agency has said it plans to test an updated version of
the Raytheon kill vehicle this summer, but has not announced its
plans for the version of the kill vehicle that failed to
separate from the third stage of the rocket last July.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Bernard Orr)