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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 15, May 1997

Former US BMD Chief Criticises Allies

In Washington on 14 April, speaking at a meeting on National Missile Defense (NMD) co-sponsored by the National Defense University and American Defense Preparedness, retired Lt. General Malcolm O'Neill, the former head of the Department of Defense's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), lamented the lack of enthusiasm for NMD projects among US allies:

"Not one of our allies has offered to bring their significant talents and technical capabilities to the development of our national missile defense system. That has been a disappointment across the board to me and everyone else I know in government and industry who is connected with NMD."

Lt. Gen O'Neill found this response not only disappointing but baffling: "they [our allies], too, have no protection from ballistic missiles. The Us is not the only nation that needs an NMD system, and with their help [providing NMD] would be far easier than if we did it alone."

There was one "glowing exception" to this distressing rule, however: Israel, which has "been committed to missile defense for as long and as strongly as we have been."

Editor's note: addressing the House National Security Committee on 15 May, Paul Kaminski, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, summarised the current "program maturity" of US NMD plans. The following extracts from his prepared statement are reproduced with kind permission of the Federal News Service:

"Although we have spent a number of years on the technologies of the individual elements of national missile defense, we are still very early in the system acquisition process. While the NMD technologies are maturing, the NMD Program itself is still composed of the multiple concepts common to early acquisition programs. Thus the requirements, designs and resulting cost estimates to date have necessarily been coarse and will be refined as the program proceeds along the acquisition process. ... At this stage of the program, the most promising concepts are defined in terms of broad objectives for cost, schedule, performance, and overall acquisition and testing strategies.

During this definition period the warfighting community will prepare and submit mission need statements and capstone operational requirements documents. In August 1996, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) approved a National Missile Defense Capstone Requirements Document (CRD) specifying the preliminary Operational requirements that the NMD system would need to meet. On March 10, 1997, the JROC validated the Key Performance Parameters of a Joint Operational Requirements Document (ORD).

Due to the uncertain nature of the threat, the architectures necessary to respond to the family of potential threats are still under development. At the element level there are still multiple alternatives and technologies in competition. The element 'Tool Box' is composed of multiple ground and space based sensors, competing designs for the interceptor kill vehicle, a number of boosters that are still under evaluation, and several BMC3 concepts.

Until this April, BMDO has had a developmental cadre managing the development of the technologies. The delay in standing up the National Missile Defense Joint Program Office can be directly attributed to the Section 8132 provisions of the FY 1997 Defense Appropriations Act that stipulated: (1) the Secretary of Defense shall complete a cost benefit analysis on the establishment of a National Missile Defense Joint Program Office; (2) the Secretary of Defense shall submit a report on this analysis to the congressional defense committees not later than March 31, 1997; and (3) the Department of Defense shall take no action to establish any National Missile Defense Joint Program Office, to reassign service National Missile Defense roles and missions under any National Missile Defense Joint Program Office strategy, or to relocate people under such a strategy prior to 31 March, 1997. Although a system integrator will not be selected for several months, the competition to obtain one is underway. On 25 April, 1997, a contract was awarded to two prime contractors to compete to be the NMD Lead System Integrator.

This contracting phase is for Program Definition and Risk Reduction, where the options are narrowed to one or more parallel approaches, and prototyping, demonstrations and early operational assessments are used to reduce risk and define cost drivers, and acquisition strategy alternatives. During this period the Joint Requirements Oversight Council will approve an initial Operational Requirements Document which sets the minimum, or threshold, and optimum, or objective, requirements for the final system to meet.

The costs, schedule and required performance levels will be evaluated by the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) to determine the optimum approach to the program. As the number of options under investigation narrow, the fidelity of the program costs and schedules improve, and at the end of this period the program will have in place cost, schedule and performance baselines and plans to guide the future development. ...

The winning competitor who will recommend the exact design details of the NMD system will be selected in the Spring of 1998. If the program is assessed by the DoD senior management, through our Defense Acquisition Board process, to be viable, the program will proceed into an engineering and manufacturing development phase, where the most promising design approach is translated from paper into an assembly of hardware and software. ...

This is the process that applies to all major DoD programs, and which NMD is following. However, we are early in the program, and there will be changes as we define the program architecture and component designs. It was only last year that NMD became a major defense acquisition program and moved from technology development of elements to the development of a weapon system.

Thus, the NMD development program is at an early stage of maturity. This has led to a situation in which our previous cost estimates were based on rough order-of-magnitude costs grounded in parametrics, laboratory tests, and simulations. Our cost estimating process was further complicated by delays in the formation of the NMD Program Office, in the awarding of the Lead System Integrator contract and the high risk nature of the program. All things considered, the NMD Program is on track with other early DoD acquisition programs. As the NMD Program matures, the accuracy of our cost estimates will continue to improve.

The recent completion of the System Requirements Document will lead to increasing system definition and stability in the cost estimates. An NMD Joint Program Office was formed two months ago. Future cost estimates, including an Independent Cost Estimate will be much more refined, based on validated Cost Analysis Requirements Document and on the results of integrated system tests which will used to validate element and system performance and validate the simulations. Together, these will provide stability to the cost estimates. The NMD Program is on an aggressive, high risk schedule and moving forward."

Report: Lack of allied interest in NMD 'frustrating,' ex-BMDO chief says, Armed Forces Newswire Service, 15 April.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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