WASHINGTON ― The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Review was supposed to be finished before the end of 2017. Then it was supposed to be complete by February. Now, it’s scheduled to come out in mid-May.
So what’s been the hold up?
“Quality,” says Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.
Asked by reporters April 24 why the review has dragged, Shanahan described the delay as a mix of wanting to be thorough, the logistics of working on multiple reviews over the last six months and the need to have people in place, most notably John Rood, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for policy, who was confirmed in early January.
“It took a long time to get people confirmed. And both John Rood and I have a background in missile defense,” the deputy told the Defense Writers Group. “And I spent the better part of the fall working on the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review, and we were waiting for John to get on board and he and I were going to tag team that together.
“So it’s really been a matter of bandwidth and availability.”
Informed of Shanahan’s comments, Rood told Defense News later that afternoon that the review is on track for a public release next month, adding that “in terms of the assembly of the process, a lot of people have been involved in generating things, but we’re not quite yet to the finish line.”
Originally billed as a ballistic missile defense review, the Pentagon dropped the term ballistic in order to better reflect the range of topics being covered in the public document. The review will feature a mix of big-picture questions about the “changing environment” for missile defense, as well as specific programs, Rood said.
“There will be a mixture of the discussion of the role missile defense has played, the way the Defense Department is pursuing it, the interaction with friends and allies, and then obviously programmatics ― both what we’re doing today and an eye towards the future,” he said. “The future will be discussed in some substantial amount.”
Asked specifically if space-based missile defense systems, an interest to Pentagon research head Mike Griffin, would be included in the review, Rood smiled and replied only: “Wait for the report.”
Shanahan indicated that a big part of the review will be balancing the current needs with developing those future capabilities, with a focus on being able to deter Russia and China from potential actions.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.