by Robert G. Gard and John Isaacs
November 15, 2006
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that spending for the missile defense system will peak at $18 billion in 2016, three years later than last year’s estimate due to further delays in the program, including $3 billion in “cost risks.”
This new estimate is contained in the Congressional Budget Office’s October 2006 report, “Long-Term Implications of Current Defense Plans: Summary Update for Fiscal Year 2007,” which projects Department of Defense (DOD) spending for missile defense based on DOD’s Future Years Defense Program.
The DOD cost projections include an average of $10 billion per year in continuing research, development, testing and evaluation of missile defense systems and an average of $500 million annually for procurement; not included are costs for the system contained in appropriations other than for the Missile Defense Agency.
Costs of the Ground Based Mid-Course (GMD) system alone, formerly called National Missile Defense, are projected to total at least $18 billion through 2017. Yet, according to authoritative defense scientists, there is no technology on the horizon to defeat countermeasures easily employed by any nation capable of fielding an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.
Without doubt, these cost projections – high as they are – are understated. As the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 2005, costs of weapons systems had increased 43% in the previous four years due to chronically low estimates and mismanagement by DOD.
David Duma, the Pentagon’s own Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, stated last January that the most advanced components of the missile defense system, which certainly does not include GMD, “may” have some defense capability. With under funding of programs to address greater threats to U.S. security, this argues for limiting missile defense programs to research and development until they successfully complete realistic operational testing.
It would be prudent to adopt the “evolutionary alternative” included in CBO’s October ’05 report on “The Long-Term Implications of Current Defense Plans and Alternatives,” which would confine missile defense programs to research and development at an average $3 billion per year through 2024.