MDA Funding Drops Despite Pentagon’s Proposed Budget Increase

Despite a large Pentagon budget increase and new emphasis on missile defense under the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Review, the Missile Defense Agency is taking a slight budget cut in its fiscal 2020 budget request and faces delays on key programs.

The Pentagon’s fiscal 2020 budget request includes $9.4 billion for the MDA, down from $10.49 billion in fiscal 2019.

MDA officials said Tuesday the reduction isn’t a sign of the lack of importance of missile defense, but instead that progression in key programs requires less spending. MDA received “significant investments” in 2018 and 2019, and “what you’re seeing in ’20 [that] looks like a decrease, is just declining funding as we complete those efforts” started in previous years, said Michelle Atkinson, the acting director for operations at MDA.

The MDR places a heavy emphasis on missile defense and the budget reflects that, with additional investments in the Pentagon budget also focused on the capability, MDA Deputy Director Rear Adm. Jon Hill said.

In future years, MDA expects declining budgets of $9.2 billion in 2021, $9.1 billion in 2022, and $8.7 billion in 2023. The 2020 total includes about $1.5 billion for procurement, and almost $7.4 billion for research, development, test, and evaluation. In addition to the MDA budget, there is another $4.2 billion in other service budgets that impact missile defense.

The 2020 budget proposal includes $1.7 billion for ground-based missile defenses, including 20 more interceptors. For regional defense, the budget has $1.7 billion for Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense and $753.8 million for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. There is $174 million for space-based missile warning and ground control enhancements for hypersonic threats. The budget calls for $331 million for directed energy and air-launched kinetic interceptors, and $844 million that “enhances options” to destroy ground-based missiles prior to launch.

An MDA official on Tuesday said the new Redesigned Kill Vehicle—a Raytheon-developed interceptor warhead—will be delayed by two years because of technical issues. This in turn will delay the deployment of 64 new ground-based interceptors that will carry the RKV warheads, according to MDA.