The European Missile Defense Decision: impact on Con Ops and industrial ripple effect


In late September, the President announced the termination of the plans to place missile interceptors in Central Europe. In so doing, Secretary Gates and President Obama indicated that they were replacing the old plan with a new one (for an interesting comment on this decision see Colin Clark on DOD Buzz).

According to the Administration they are pushing a two-part plan. The first part to be completed by 2011 entails the deployment of SM-3 missiles on Aegis ships able to protect “areas where we see the greatest threat to Europe,” according to Gates. The second part which is to become operational around 2015 will “involve putting upgraded SM-3 missiles, as opposed to the old plan of just 10 ground-based interceptors,” Gates adds in his piece in The New York Times of Sept 20th.

The decision will certainly lead to significant strategic debate. For the core questions for consideration are the industrial and concepts of operations issues. This decision raises a number of them, which have not been discussed. The press has simply interpreted this as a win for Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and a loss for Boeing. But this interpretation avoids, rather than engages the fundamental questions facing industry and the services.

Issues Key Task to Watch
Cost and Budget for Shift in Policy Termination Costs; Impact on CONUS-based defense systems and costs;
Budget for Aegis and SM-3 Programs Shipbuilding numbers; Aegis program upgrades; SM-3 Budget; Integration Costs and Efforts
If Plus-up to SM-3 and radar systems ashore…. Need to see the program, the systems integration approach, the test plan, and the budget
New concepts of operations for use of sea-based missile defense for collective defense Shaping Collaborative Con-ops and Transparent Decision Making to Deter Iran
Basing of the new SM-3 land based missile defense package Watch diplomatic activity to handle the end of the old and signing up of new land-based missile partners
Impact on Multi-Mission Systems Aegis pulled from the carrier task forces or new Aegis BMD dedicated assts as picket ships for the Mediterranean Iranian deterrence mission?
Impact on Macro Missile Defense Policy Linkage of new systems in the Middle East with space-based and air-breathing sensors and systems; programs and budgets?
Link of Defense with Offense Shaping of collaborative con-ops of defense and offensive assets in deterrence of Iran; declaratory and operational indicators of deployed capability and planning to reassure allies in the region

The first core question is the cost and budget for this shift. When one shifts from an old approach to a new one, the near term cost goes up not down. The program in Central Europe has to be terminated and termination costs paid. The program in Central Europe was tied to technology being used elsewhere in the missile defense system –notably Alaska – and the costs of these assets will go up as the overall demand goes down.

The second core question is the budget and commitment to the Aegis missile defense program. If the idea is simply to redeploy existing assets, with no significant budget commitment to building new assets, then the area where this capability has already been deployed –Asia—will face more risk.

The third core question is that if this decision will lead to more money for Aegis destroyers and Aegis systems, then the plan to add capability needs to be clearly seen in Navy budgets or missile defense general accounts. And how will this build occur, with what timeline, with what contractual vehicles and how rapidly the timeline? And the decision to deploy new SM-3s ashore will make sense only if the radars guiding intercept are appropriate to such a mission, and these are what exactly?

The fourth core question involves managing the concepts of operations. Gates tells us that “we” will be making assessment decisions of risks and deployment of systems. This places a premium on disclosure of the collaborative concepts of operations and decision-making approaches that would give any of our European and Middle Eastern partner’s confidence in the process of providing for timely defense. And placing Aegis ships for BMD purposes off of Mediterranean shores as virtual ‘picket ships’ raises questions about the overall concept of operations for the USN.

The fifth core question is who is going to want new “land-based” SM3 missiles after what has happened with the old decision being overturned by the Administration. If this leads as Sec Gates has indicated to simply ground basing of Aegis and SM-3, this has never been done before. We will need a site, and agreement with Nations about this siting.This decision resembles the Skybolt decision where a new Administration decided unilaterally to change the weapons to implement a US defense strategy. The “we” becomes a key question open to scrutiny and to shaping collaborative approaches.

The sixth core question is the impact of this decision on the multi-mission systems being developed by the US. The USN has been concerned for some time with Aegis BMD leading to a reduction of Aegis assets working in carrier task forces. Does this mean than we will see a significant downturn in the number of carrier task forces and with it the number of aircraft carriers?

The seventh core question is the impact of the decision on the overall approach to missile defense. What will be the relationship to the approach here, to the future of military space, the networking of land-based assets with sea-based assets in delivering capability?

The final question is the con-ops of defense with offense. The US leadership terminated F-22 and has been reluctant to deploy F-22 to the region. But the relationship to how you use the new multi-mission strike assets with defensive assets is at the heart of the integrated con-ops central to a 21st century approach. So how will the Administration combine deployed assets in the Middle East for comprehensive defense, which means what is the concept of operations to defend against Iran, which draws upon both defensive and offensive assets?

In other words, there remains much to be planned, funded and executed before the change in plans can effectively be executed.


***Posted September 21st, 2009