The Defense Screen That Must Work

August 30, 2020 Updated: August 30, 2020

Commentary

The Pentagon can’t afford to get it wrong again when it comes to national defense.

The issue here is something that’s crucially important: an effective missile defense screen. The Senate is making plans to invest an additional $200 million for Ground-based Midcourse Defense this year, a great decision, as GMD works. It is the only technology that’s capable of protecting the homeland from intercontinental missiles in a last line of defense against nuclear attack.

But as with any technology, GMD is constantly being updated. You’re probably reading this on a Chrome browser; you’re certainly not using Netscape or Internet Explorer. Those technologies worked but were surpassed by superior technologies. So too with GMD. The Defense Department wants to update the warhead that sits on the end of every GMD missile and that actually destroys incoming weapons.

But the upgrade is not going smoothly. Just a year ago, the U.S. government cancelled the Redesigned Kill Vehicle program. RKV is supposed to develop a better warhead. The last contract ended in failure because of cost overruns and substandard results.

As a government report explained: “At the time [the Defense Department] canceled the RKV program in August 2019, MDA [the Missile Defense Agency] had spent a total of $1.21 billion on RKV development — $340 million more than the agency’s original estimate for the entire RKV development effort, including eight initial production kill vehicles.” The estimated cost increased by more than 230 percent from 2015 to 2019.

The last contract failed to provide the necessary upgrade and our government needs to do better the next time. This is not a time to walk away from the necessary upgrades to provide the best missile defense program that America can produce.

Now, let’s step back and consider GMD in its entirety. The program exists to respond to a threat of missile attack that still exists. In 2020, during a pandemic, countries such as North Korea and Iran would love to be able to attack the American homeland and kill our citizens. GMD prevents that from happening.

Both countries are aware that GMD has worked in live testing. It has destroyed dummy warheads that, if they were actual missiles, could have destroyed American cities. The missile screen remains in place, and its Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) is effective, for now. But the federal government understands it must keep pushing the technology forward, or it risks becoming obsolete.

The last upgrade of the kill vehicles was botched. Our adversaries know that too and it is important to be public that the Pentagon is committed to take another run at the upgrade to provide a deterrent. For the future of the program, the Pentagon must take another run at getting the contract right. They need one that can deliver a kill vehicle that works and will help protect national security.

Thankfully, that is what is already happening. The trade publication Defense News reports that: “the Pentagon is still working through the details of a new, next-generation interceptor competition, including when it will be initiated and the pace at which the technology will be developed and fielded.” Even with the failure of the last contract, the Pentagon needs to find a contractor that can provide a new and improved RKV technology provider.

This isn’t something that needs to happen this summer, or even by the end of 2020. But it absolutely needs to happen soon.

GMD is critical to the future defense of the United States and is technology that protects American citizens from being the targets of an intercontinental missile attack. The federal government is, rightly, investing time and treasure in it. The Pentagon needs to make certain it is buying cutting edge technology that is functional.

Congress should insist that the Pentagon move forward with another attempt to upgrade the missile defense program and get it right this time.

David O’Connell is a Republican political strategist living in Dallas, Texas.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.