GAO Urges Pentagon to Review Missile Defense Needs
Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009
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The U.S. Defense Department should conduct a "comprehensive" review of its missile defense needs to help inform decisions on development of interceptors and other systems, congressional investigators concluded in a report made public yesterday (see GSN, July 21).
(Sep. 17) - The U.S. Sea-Based X-band radar arrives at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, aboard a heavy lift vessel in 2006. The Pentagon failed in several cases to fully establish units and train personnel to operate missile defense radars and other systems ahead of their deployment, says a congressional report released yesterday (U.S. Missile Defense Agency photo).
Pentagon "studies prepared to date were completed for specific purposes, such as addressing regional threats. However, none of the studies have taken a comprehensive approach that addressed the full range of requirements," the Government Accountability Office report states.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff "conducted studies, for example, to identify the minimum interceptor quantities needed for certain ballistic missile defense elements designed to defend against short-to-intermediate-range threats. Additionally, the combatant commands have analyzed their ballistic missile defense requirements for their specific regions, and the services have studied requirements for specific elements," congressional auditors wrote in the report.
In five instances, the Pentagon failed to comprehensively establish units and train personnel to operate various missile defense systems before the weapons were deployed, according to the analysis. The lapses affected the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, sea- and ground-based radars, and a system designed to integrate the nation's entire missile defense network.
In one case, "the Army faced personnel shortfalls to operate the midcourse defense system. These shortages affected the Army unitsí ability to support ongoing research and development activities and ultimately resulted in operational readiness concerns," the report states.
The Missile Defense Agency is working with the military to assign personnel to the defenses, but the process could take years for some of the systems, the report's authors wrote.
"Unless fully trained units are in place to support missile defense elements when they are made operational, DOD will continue to face uncertainties and operational risks associated with the elements," says the analysis.
It calls for the Pentagon to conduct a "comprehensive analysis identifying its requirements for [ballistic missile defense] elements and interceptors and require, in the absence of an immediate threat, the establishment of operational units before making elements available for use." The Defense Department largely agreed with the recommendations, the report says (U.S. Government Accountability Office release, Sept. 16).
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