Missile Defense Agency faces slowdown

When the Bush administration withdrew last week from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and the former Soviet Union, decades of restrictions were lifted from the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

But that newfound freedom to test new technologies and collaborate with allies is threatened by more than $800 million in budget cuts, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, director of the MDA, during a June 20 presentation at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

"Withdrawal from that treaty has changed our world," he said.

The ABM treaty prohibited the United States and Russia from developing or deploying an anti-missile system on land, at sea or in space, and even though 30 years of restrictions have now been lifted, they "are still in our psyche," Kadish said.

The MDA has performed many tests over the past two years and is satisfied that it can perform its "hit-to-kill" strategy, which relies heavily on information technology, communications and integrated sensors. However, questions remain as to whether the strategy can be performed reliably in the atmosphere and in space, as well as in the presence of countermeasures, Kadish said. He added that the MDA has two basic needs in regard to sensors - radars operating at different frequencies and ranges, and infrared sensors operating from space - to complete the hit-to-kill strategy.

Complicating matters is the Senate version of the Defense Authorization Act, which proposes a reduction of the MDA's $7.5 billion budget request for fiscal 2003 by more than $800 million - a move that has drawn the ire of the Bush administration. A June 19 White House memo said the proposed cuts would reduce the program's workforce, hinder the DOD's ability to integrate components currently under development and slow down key sensor programs.

"If these missile defense provisions are included in the final enrolled bill, the president's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill," the memo said.

"Our progress is directly relatable to the resources given to us by the administration and Congress," Kadish said. "In general, if we have less resources than we ask for, [progress] will go slower than what we would have accomplished.

"A reduction of that magnitude would slow us down."

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