Jeffrey LewisSaving Space Based Interceptors?

Zapping Space-Based Interceptors? Not so fast.

MDA Director Henry “Trey” Obering wants to keep as many missile defense programs alive as possible, including programs for space-based missile defense interceptors, despite looming budget cuts.

With the Missile Defense Agency facing a total program cut of $ 5 billion over FY 2006-2011, informed speculation centered on the Kinetic Energy Interceptors (KEI) program (which includes space-based boost phase interceptors) as a possible source of savings.

Last week, Aviation Week & Space Technology reported that a “debate ongoing at the Pentagon is whether to break one [missile defense] program by assigning it the entire bill, or whether to force every project to share part of the financial burden.”

That debate appears to have been settled decisively in favor of preserving a large number of programs. Inside Defense reports that Obering said he would “maintain as many options as long as we can within the [BMDS] program.” He told reporters:

What I am trying to do is maintain enough momentum across the board so I can retain options in both the boost phase as well as the midcourse and terminal phases so that we can make our decisions based on those demonstrated results.

Preserving space-based boost phase options—which Obering is said to favor—probably means funding the space-based interceptor test bed at current levels or slightly less—about $ 11 M a year. If the space-based test bed avoids the ax, it may slip through again at that level of effort.

We’ll know in early February.