BUDGET 2023: Pentagon Requests Funds to Finish Guam Missile Defenses

By Meredith Roaten

Navy photo

As tensions ramp up in the Pacific, the Missile Defense Agency is stepping up its funding for protecting U.S. forces in Guam, according to agency officials.

The Biden’s administration requested $539 million for fiscal year 2023 to continue development for Guam’s defense architecture to defend against potential targeting by China, said Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the director of the agency.

The agency is doing “everything we can” to have the defense systems completed by 2026 — the deadline Indo-Pacific Command has said defenses should be up and running, Hill said during a press briefing March 28.

“The requirement from the combatant command is clear. The timeline is clear, which is why we went with the more mature technologies,” Hill said.

A more permanent air and missile defense system for Guam has been discussed for years as the threat grew, said comptroller Dee Dee Martinez.  “The regional threat to Guam, including from China, continues to rapidly evolve,” she said.

The architecture is now finalized and includes both Army and Navy systems, she said.

The budget request “continues the architecture work but also provides funds for design and development of multiple land based radar systems, procurement of weapons system components and initiates [military construction] planning and design activities,” Martinez said.

Hill said the architecture will build off the Advanced Electronic Guided Interceptor System — or Aegis — ship-based capabilities that are currently defending the Pacific island. The Missile Defense Agency will also leverage the Army's Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System and Navy Aegis command-and-control weapons, he said.

“We're going to respond to the No. 1 requirement of 360-degree coverage against ballistic cruise and hypersonic threats,” he said.

SM-3 and SM-6 ballistic missiles — in coordination with the Navy — will be integrated with the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile, or THAAD, he said.

The Missile Defense Agency’s $422 million request for the THAAD program would fund the procurement of missile components such as interceptors, according to the agency.

Using already existing programs such as THAAD and SM-6 will help cement the architecture by the 2026 deadline, Hill said. However, the relatively small portion of land that the Pentagon has to work with in Guam presents an additional challenge, he noted.

“Right now, it’s just moving as fast as we can with the most mature technology, prioritize those things that we need to buy now, prioritize those engineering studies to integrate and pull them together,” he said. “We're going to get pretty doggone close to that timeline.”

While the landscape of Guam presents a unique challenge for missile defense, the architecture could be replicable in other places, Hill added. For example, he pointed to sensor technology that will be used in Guam that could be applied to other command-and-control systems.

“We're going to deliver a really great capability on Guam and absolutely, it will be extensible,” he said. “It's not a one off.”

The evolving threat of cruise and hypersonic missiles necessitates continued investment in the agency‘s missile defense programs, Martinez noted. She pointed to China and Russia’s development of advanced capabilities that are hard to track and travel at extremely high speeds.

Hypersonic missiles — such as the one China reportedly tested last fall — can travel faster than Mach 5 and are maneuverable.

“The development and deployment of missile defense systems to counter these advanced threats presents unique but surmountable challenges which require further development and technology investments,” Martinez said.

The budget request for hypersonic missile defense totals $225 million. This includes funding for a glide phase interceptor that could take out the highly maneuverable missiles before the missile hits its target.

The agency requested a total of $9.6 billion for fiscal year 2023, which is $700 million more than the enacted amount for 2022, according to the agency.

The agency is asking for $1.6 billion for the Aegis Missile Defense System while the request for ground-based midcourse defense was the largest line item at $2.8 billion.

Meanwhile, the Missile Defense Agency wants to continue to fund its effort with the Space Force and Space Development Agency to track hypersonic and ballistic missiles from space. The agency requested $130 million for the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor and Space-based Kill Assessment.

Hill said the organizations are on track to field prototypes by 2023 and will make a decision then if they will field the technology. Ground testing has provided useful data that will be considered alongside data from experiments in space, he noted.

“If we prove to ourselves that this is worth doing that, we’ll proliferate,” he said.

Topics: Defense Department

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