Jan. 26, 2013: The Missile Defense Agency conducted a flight test of a three-stage Ground-Based Interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (Missile Defense Agency)
Four high-ranking Republican lawmakers criticized the Obama administration on Friday for three failed tests of the country’s missile-defense system, saying budget cuts and neglect are to blame.
Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., along with Reps. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., and Mike Rogers, R-Ala., sent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a letter faulting President Obama for allegedly gambling with national security by cutting funding to the program. They claim this hampered the ability to conduct vital tests needed to make sure the “ground-based midcourse defense system” (GMD) worked properly and conduct regular maintenance.
The last successful GMD intercept test was in 2008. Since then, there have only been three attempted intercept tests and two flight tests — the most recent of which was in January, and was successful. All of the intercept tests, however, tanked. The latest failed test was last Friday.
“While it may take some time to reach a final diagnosis of the cause of the July 5th test failure, it is already clear that President Obama’s decision to drastically cut funding for the GMD program since he came to office and to ‘curtail additional GMD development’ has drained funding available to conduct needed tests of this system,” the letter from the lawmakers said.
In 2008, funding for GMD was close to $2 billion. By 2012, the GMD budget had been slashed in half with more cuts projected over the next five years.
“Such funding cuts have touched every facet of the GMD program, including its maintenance,” the letter said.
Following the latest test failure, the Defense Department released a short statement that provided few details on what happened.
“Although a primary objective was the intercept of a long-range ballistic missile target launched from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands, an intercept was not achieved,” the statement said.
“Program officials will conduct an extensive review to determine the cause of causes of any anomalies which may have prevented a successful intercept.”
Initial findings from an internal investigation found that a faulty battery may be to blame, Reuters reported Friday, quoting an industry source.
“The initial look at the data indicates the problem was in the power suite, with the battery,” the source told Reuters.
If that theory is proven, it would point to a component-manufacturing issue or quality control problem, the source said.
The Republican lawmakers want the Obama administration to free up more money so the Missile Defense Agency can conduct more tests, which includes a new intercept test of the CE-1 Enhanced Kill Vehicle GBI.