US Missile Defense Agency gets knuckles rapped for missed targets

The United States Missile Defense Agency had just received a dressing down by its official Government watchdog for failing to meet its objectives last year.
Christopher McFadden
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The Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) at Clear Space Force Station, Alaska


The US Government Accountability Office (GAO), an oversight body for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), has determined that the latter has failed to meet its baseline goals for delivering and testing US aerial defense systems for the last fiscal year.

The Missile Defense Agency plays a critical role in the United States' efforts to develop and deploy effective missile defense capabilities, aiming to protect the country and its allies from the threat of ballistic missile attacks.

This stunning judgment was made following an annual report titled “Missile Defense: Annual Goals Unmet for Deliveries and Testing,” released on the 18th of May, 2023. This report is the 20th in the GAO's history since its establishment by the United States Department of Defence (DoD) in 2002.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the agency has spent over $194 billion during this period, with $10.4 billion being spent in fiscal 2022. For the 2023 financial year, Congress allocated $10.5 billion to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), while the agency requested $10.9 billion in its 2024 budget proposal.

“Over this time, missile threats from foreign adversaries have evolved, and MDA has faced persistent challenges as it attempts to keep pace. GAO has reported that MDA has not met the annual goals it sets for itself to deliver hardware and test its capabilities,” the report explains. According to the report from last June, it was noted that 23 recommendations made by GAO to enhance the agency's performance have not been implemented yet.

These include recommendations for interceptors, radar upgrades, and improved testing of existing and planned systems. As a result, the GAO determines, the MDA may end up accepting contractor delivery of one new high-priority system, the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR), before its capability has been verified.

The watchdog office conducted a review of MDA program plans and performance from June 2022 to May 2023 and assessed the agency's progress towards its baseline goals for delivering interceptor and radar upgrades to missile defense systems operated by the military services, as well as conducting ground, flight, and cybersecurity testing. Further, the agency did “not complete its fiscal year 2022 flight, ground, and cyber baseline test program, consistent with prior years,” says the GAO.

However, it was not all bad news for the MDA.

“In 2022, MDA continued to deliver interceptors and radar upgrades to operational commanders, including those that were expected to be delivered in prior years, but it did not meet its annual goals. As a result, the warfighter has less fielded capability than planned,” detailed the GAO in the report.

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