WASHINGTON — Should additional money become available on top of the recently released fiscal 2022 budget request, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the Missile Defense Agency would like to use it to boost defense against ballistic missile threats in the Pacific, according to a wish list sent to Congress and obtained by Defense News.
INDOPACOM chief Adm. John Aquilino sent a customary unfunded requirements list to Capitol Hill shortly after the release of the FY22 budget request. The wish list contained $889.94 million worth of projects and programs he’d like to see funded if Congress is able to inject more cash into the budget.
These wish lists are sent to Congress each year to help guide lawmakers as they decide what might require additional funding. The Pentagon usually cautions Congress not to cut items from its base budget request in favor of items on the lists.
The commander’s No. 1 priority on the list is more money to develop a ballistic missile defense system for Guam, which would require an additional $231.7 million — $77.2 million in procurement funding and $154.45 million in research, development, test and evaluation funding.
The Missile Defense Agency plans to use $78.3 million in its FY22 base budget to look at systems that could support the defense of Guam. The money would support detailed threat and requirements analysis, systems engineering, trade studies, and specification updates.
Another $40 million in the request would procure long-lead items for the Guam defense capability.
The architecture to defend Guam could include regional capabilities offered from Aegis Combat System ships and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, or THAAD. They “are all part of that architecture consideration today, and we’re working that hard so that we can come forward and tell you exactly what we’re going to do on Guam,” Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the MDA’s director, said during a June 9 hearing with the Senate Strategic Forces Subcommittee.
The Army deployed a rotational THAAD presence to Guam in 2013.
The architecture, Hill added, would require sensors, a fire control network and defensive weapons.
Basing on Guam is critical to America’s goal to project its offensive power and deter possible threats in the INDOPACOM theater — and that means the U.S. military must protect the island, Hill said.
Developing a dedicated missile defense capability on Guam would free up Navy ships to return to maneuver forces.
Fourth on the INDOPACOM commander’s list is funding for the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii, which hasn’t received funding in recent years and was excluded from the FY22 budget request.
The commander would like $41 million in RDT&E funding as well as $19 million in military construction money to support an initial operational capability by FY24. The list notes the ask is in line with National Defense Authorization Act guidance over the last six budget cycles.
The HDR-H was listed as an unfunded requirement for FY21 by Indo-Pacific Command.
Support has been growing both in Congress and the Pentagon to pursue a Hawaii-based ballistic missile defense radar.
The MDA’s modest unfunded requirements list totals $367.5 million. The agency’s budget request is also lower than previous requests at $8.9 billion. Congress infused its FY21 budget with $1.3 billion because the body didn’t believe the request was enough to meet National Defense Strategy goals.
That fear still exists, with Senate Strategic Forces Subcommittee ranking member Sen. Debra Fischer of Nebraska saying at the June 9 hearing: “I am concerned that this level of funding, especially if sustained into the future ... will be insufficient to pace the growing threats facing our nation and we will be left in a precarious situation as a nation.”
The MDA wish list includes $41 million for two more all-up rounds of the SM-3 Block IIA missile, which is critical for advanced ballistic missile defense threats and is launched from Aegis ships. The agency also wants 12 additional THAAD interceptors for a total of $109.6 million.
An additional $61.9 million is wanted for hypersonic defense, according to the MDA list, in order to accelerate defensive system development.
The agency requested $247.9 million in FY22 to develop a glide-phase intercept capability as well as other technologies needed for a future architecture, and to support the acceleration of an operational demonstration of the glide-phase defense capability using the Aegis weapon system.
Bolstering cybersecurity for its systems is also included on the wish list. The agency wants $55 million to improve the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure that supports its Ballistic Missile Defense System and other MDA systems.
The agency would like extra funding to upgrade its Navy SPY radar to include improvements in detecting, tracking and the discrimination of advanced threats in more complex environments. “The approach digitizes the radar back end resulting in solid-state radar-like performance,” the list stated.
While there is a small amount of funding in the MDA’s FY22 request — $14 million — to address U.S. Northern Command’s requirements for cruise missile defense of the homeland to begin development needed for the capability, the wish list contains an additional $27 million to develop and demonstrate a tower-based fire control sensor for indications and warnings and “potential engagement of cruise missile threat.”
The tower sensor would also be effective in detecting hypersonic missile threats.
The same request in the MDA’s wish list is present in U.S. Northern Command’s unfunded requirements list.
“This funding to the Missile Defense Agency will support sensor procurement and integration into existing fire-control network/architecture, and up to three one-week exercises for data collection and data evaluation. This capability will adapt and towermount an existing X-band radar, as well as interface to a Joint Tactical Integrated Fire Control system architecture,” NORTHCOM’s wish list stated.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.