WASHINGTON — Lawmakers will require the defense secretary to create a federally funded research and development center that can independently assess the Pentagon’s plans to build an integrated air-and-missile defense architecture to defend Guam, according to the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
And Congress is also requiring more oversight from the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency and the services on the mission to defend Guam — a top agency priority — by providing quarterly updates to congressional defense committees in the FY23 Appropriations Act passed into law on Dec. 23.
The MDA has been working on an architecture to defend Guam from air and missile threats for several years but has been scant on the details causing lawmakers to continuously hammer the agency during hearings and withheld funding in FY22 for not being forthcoming.
It was not until it released its FY23 budget request that the MDA unveiled details on its plans.
The agency will likely manage the ICBM and hypersonic missile defense components while the Army will take the lead on cruise missile defense. While MDA hasn’t “really started the program,” Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the MDA director, told Defense News earlier this year, it is funded in fiscal 2023 to lay down the basic architecture of the systems that will go on Guam.
The architecture will not be a fixed missile defense site like Aegis Ashore in Romania and Poland, Hill said during a Pentagon budget briefing. “Think of it as a distributed system.” He added that the agency is interested in using mobile launchers.
The architecture will include Navy SM-3 and SM-6 missiles, the Patriot air-and-missile defense system and the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD). A THAAD battery has been operating on Guam since 2013.
Those elements will be connected through the Army’s Integrated Battle Command System, a command-and control-system that connects sensors and shooters on the battlefield. The agency will also use the Aegis weapon system’s fire control capability, Hill said.
In the NDAA, Congress is requiring that a contract be minted for the assessment no later than 60 days after the enactment of the act. The NDAA passed on Dec. 8 triggering the countdown.
The analysis should include “a proposed architecture capability to address non-ballistic and ballistic missile threats to Guam, including the sensor, command and control, and interceptor systems being proposed,” the law states. It must also examine the development and integration risk of the proposed plan and what manning is required to operate it including the availability of housing and infrastructure.
Also in the law, the defense secretary is required to designate a Defense Department senior official responsible for missile defense of Guam.
This official will be required to lead the design of the architecture defending Guam, oversee development of a missile defense acquisition strategy and ensure the military department and MDA budgets are appropriate for the strategy.
The appointee will also oversee siting decisions and long-term acquisition and sustainment of the system for Guam, the law states.
The official’s role will be terminated three years after the missile defense architecture is declared initial operational capability, the NDAA adds.
The NDAA also required the Pentagon, through the MDA, to rapidly procure and field up to three vertical launching systems that can accommodate planned interceptors operated by the Navy no later than the end of calendar year 2023.
Through the Appropriations Act, the Pentagon’s quarterly reports to congressional defense committees specifically should include the status of environmental impact statements and site surveys required for the architecture, acquisition schedules for anticipated weapons systems as well as deployment schedules. The reports should also include manning requirements and show how much has been obligated and spent on the effort.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.