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US House Subcommittee Backs Multiyear Deals for Interceptors

May. 22, 2013 - 06:08PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
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WASHINGTON — A US House Armed Services subcommittee on Wednesday approved legislation that would allow the use of multiyear contracts for interceptor missiles, require an Air Force plan for buying a key rocket and press Moscow on supplying missile components to rogue states.

The panel’s Strategic Forces subcommittee unanimously signed off on its portion of the House’s 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sending it to the full committee. The subpanel’s legislation contains several nuclear- and missile defense-themed provisions expected to produce heated debate when the full HASC begins its markup June 5.

The subcommittee’s legislation would clear the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to award multiyear contracts for “one or more” — and up to 14 — ground-based missile interceptors in fiscal 2014. The same provision would give MDA advance procurement authority to cover any purchases related to those interceptors.

Defense acquisition officials often prefer multiyear deals, arguing such arrangements allow them to bring down the price of a weapon and lock in a price point.

The legislation also would require Air Force brass to craft a plan under which it would finally award a contract for a key rocket system, the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle.

The provision would mandate the Air Force secretary to provide a plan to “ensure the fair evaluation of competing contractors.”

“This plan would include descriptions of how the following areas would be addressed in the evaluation: the proposed cost, schedule and performance; mission assurance activities; the manner in which the contractor will operate,” states the legislation.

The legislation also contains several sections on the US nuclear arsenal that could trigger bipartisan debate when the full panel takes up its complete NDAA in a few weeks.

One such provision states it would, if enacted, become the “policy of the United States that the missile defenses of the United States defend the United States, its allies, and deployed forces against a multitude of threats, including multiple regional actors.” What’s more, the same provision would “limit the use of funds to remove U.S. missile defense capabilities from East Asia.”

The subcommittee’s bill also would “require the Nuclear Weapons Council to ensure that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile contains a sufficient number of warheads that are capable of being deployed ... on Minuteman III [missiles] and any ground-based strategic deterrent follow on.”

The subpanel’s bill also proposes increasing pressure on Russia, which many House and Senate Republicans — joined by hawkish Democrats — say is a dishonest negotiator on nuclear arms reductions that supplies missile technology to rogue states.

The legislation would “prohibit the use of funds authorized for fiscal years 2014 through 2018 for the Department of Defense to provide the Russian Federation with access to hit-to-kill missile defense technology of the United States or its telemetry data.”

The section notes that Obama administration officials, including Brad Roberts, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, have told lawmakers “hit-to-kill is our technology, and it serves our interests well to keep it in our hands.” Still, HASC members and staffers want to codify such statements into law.

Some senior HASC Republicans have long charged US President Barack Obama has a “secret deal” with Russian leaders about big nuclear weapons reductions; the White House denies such claims.

The bill also would urge the White House “to encourage the Russian Federation to disclose past support by it or Russian entities for the ballistic missile programs of certain states.”

That section points out that the subcommittee believes Syria, Iran and North Korea have received Russian missile help. It also would require a plan from the Pentagon and the State Department “to seek and secure the cooperation of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China to verifiably reduce the spread of technology and expertise that supports the ballistic missile programs of” those three nations.

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