Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include further comments from Missile Defense Agency officials at a March 13 Pentagon budget briefing.
WASHINGTON — The Missile Defense Agency’s $10.9 billion fiscal 2024 budget prioritizes regional and homeland missile defense with a major focus on building an air and missile defense architecture in Guam.
Last year, the agency asked for $9.6 billion, but received nearly $1 billion more from Congress. The FY24 request is up nearly 4% from that enacted funding level.
The new proposal includes $8.7 billion in research and development funding, up 6% from last year’s enacted spending. R&D funding accounts for 80% of the FY24 budget proposal.
The MDA is requesting $1.5 billion in procurement funding, 11% less than Congress enacted in FY23, and $564 million in operations and maintenance spending, 4% more than last year.
The agency is also seeking to dramatically increase its military construction budget, requesting $149 million, nearly triple what it received in FY23.
According to budget documents, the agency wants to increase military construction spending even more in FY25 to $524 million.
The agency is also seeking to dramatically increase its military construction budget, requesting $149 million, nearly triple what it received in FY23, to pay for a new ground test consolidation facility the agency is building at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
The effort will “consolidate all of our disparate ground test facilities right now,” Michelle Atkinson, the agency’s director of operations, said during a March 13 briefing at the Pentagon.
According to budget documents, the agency wants to increase military construction spending even more in FY25 to $524 million. That funding will be devoted to building the missile defense architecture in Guam, Atkinson said.
The agency is asking for more than $800 million to develop and begin constructing its architecture to defend Guam from air and missile threats. The MDA proposes spending nearly half of the $800 million to continue design and development of the integrated missile defense architecture for the island.
The architecture will defend against ballistic, hypersonic and cruise missile threats, “so you need a sensor architecture, you need command-and-control and you need weapons that are in launchers,” Vice Adm. Jon Hill, MDA’s director, said during the March 13 briefing.
The architecture will be comprised of MDA, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy systems. Part of the effort includes development of the AN/TPY-6 radar for 360-degree coverage, long-range midcourse discrimination, precision tracking and hit assessment.
This radar will be tied to the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Weapon system, Hill said. The U.S. Army’s Integrated Battle Command System, the brains of the service’s air and missile defense capability, as well as its Lower-Tier Air-and-Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) and Sentinel radars will fill in gaps for cruise missile and hypersonic threats, he added.
The MDA also wants to spend $38.5 million to upgrade the Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications System to support the Guam defense architecture.
Regional missile defense spending
Additionally, the MDA is seeking $220.3 million in FY24 for development of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which provides ballistic missile defense capability in Guam and in South Korea. The agency also requests $47.6 million for testing and $216.8 million to buy 11 interceptors.
The agency is also asking for $89.3 million to support seven THAAD system batteries, including two forward-based batteries stationed in the US Indo-Pacific Command region.
The MDA is requesting $693.7 million for Navy Aegis ships that also provide regional missile defense and more than $800 million to buy 27 Aegis SM-3 Block IB missiles and 12 Aegis SM-3 Block IIA missiles.
The Aegis Ashore system, meant to offer regional defense for Europe, has been operational in Romania since 2016. The MDA is still working to reach operational capability at another Aegis Ashore site in Poland and is seeking $2.4 million to complete the site.
Hill said the construction issues that have long plagued the Poland site are in the rearview mirror and the agency is now conducting combat system installation and testing. Testing will continue through the summer and into the fall, followed by formal acceptance by the U.S. Navy, U.S. European Command and NATO.
The MDA is also requesting $80.4 million to configure Aegis for land-based defense on Guam and integration with dispersed AN/TPY-6 radar and multiple launchers, according to Pentagon budget documents.
The MDA also continues to develop its Glide-Phase Interceptor, capable of eliminating hypersonic missile threats, and is asking for $209 million in FY24 to fund an ongoing competition between Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman. Both companies are working on concepts and designs after receiving contracts in November 2021.
While the Army has a capability to defend against hypersonic missile attacks in the terminal phase of flight, the GPI will allow it to eliminate threats in the glide phase, before the missile begins its descent.
MDA is in the “mission solution analysis phase,” Hill said, which means the agency is working with the two companies already selected to determine what technologies are needed and how they can come together to form a weapon system.
“The timeline is always hard to tell,” Hill said, but “the budget supports a deployment or getting to that first article out there in the early ‘30s.”
Homeland defense efforts
The agency is also asking for $903.6 million in FY24 to sustain and upgrade its Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System, designed to protect the nation from intercontinental ballistic missile threats from North Korea and Iran.
Additionally, MDA wants another $2.1 billion in FY24 to continue development of its Next-Generation Interceptor. Two teams — Lockheed Martin with Aerojet Rocketdyne and Northrop Grumman with Raytheon Technologies — are competing to build interceptor prototypes.
The NGI is meant to replace the current Ground-Based Interceptors that make up the GMD system. There are 44 GBIs in the ground with the majority in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, and the rest at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.
The current interceptors aren’t equipped to counter a missile that could contain multiple kill vehicles or decoys that make the defeat process more complicated, agency officials have said, and the military hopes to have the new interceptor in the ground by 2027 or 2028. Hill confirmed the agency is looking to a fielding goal of 2028.
The GMD system will need $41.8 million for testing and $174.8 million for maintenance and sustainment, according to the agency.
Missile defense in space
The agency plans to spend $109.5 million in FY24 for its missile defense space programs. Congress enacted $130 million in funding for the programs in FY23.
The funding would go toward the Hypersonic & Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS), a program initiated in 2018 to detect and track hypersonic and ballistic missile threats. L3Harris Technologies and Northrop Grumman each received $277 million contracts in early 2021 to produce prototypes.
The HBTSS is slated to launch in FY23 and remain on orbit in FY24 to validate its performance. Eventually, the Space Force is expected to deploy the capability.
The request also funds the Space-based Kill Assessment project, a network of sensors on commercial satellites capable of delivering hit-to-kill assessments for homeland defense.
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.