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Budgetary And Technical Implications Of The Administration's Plan For National Missile Defense

Budgetary And Technical Implications Of The Administration's Plan For National Missile Defense

April 2000, Source: Congressional Budget Office Paper.

NOTES

Unless otherwise indicated, all years referred to in this paper are fiscal years. Numbers in the text and tables may not add up to totals because of rounding.

PREFACE

In response to a request from the Senate Democratic Leader and Senators Lautenberg and Levin, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has analyzed the potential costs and technical implications of the Administration's plan for a national missile defense (NMD) system. This paper examines the costs to deploy and operate the planned system (including the costs of complying with recommendations from the recent Panel on Reducing Risk in Ballistic Missile Defense Flight Test Programs), notes other funding proposals by the Administration for efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction, assesses the current status of the NMD program, compares it with previous major acquisition programs, and considers other countries' reactions to NMD and possible U.S. responses to those reactions. In keeping with CBO's mandate to provide objective, impartial analysis, the paper makes no recommendations.

The paper was written by Geoffrey Forden of CBO's National Security Division, under the supervision of Christopher Jehn and R. William Thomas, and by Raymond Hall of CBO's Budget Analysis Division, under the supervision of Michael A. Miller. Jo Ann Vines, Zachary Selden, and Matthew Martin made significant contributions to the analysis. Richard Fernandez reviewed the manuscript and provided helpful comments. The authors are also grateful to the numerous people at the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, the Department of Defense, various NMD ground-test facilities, and elsewhere who provided invaluable help and comments. Despite their assistance, all responsibility for this analysis lies with the authors and CBO.

Christian Spoor edited the manuscript, Christine Bogusz proofread it, and Cindy Cleveland prepared the paper for publication. Kath Quattrone produced the figures. Laurie Brown prepared the electronic versions of the paper for CBO's World Wide Web site (www.cbo.gov).

Dan L. Crippen

Director, April 2000.

CONTENTS

SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION

Costs and Schedule for National Missile Defense

Limitations of This Analysis

THE ORIGINS OF NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

THE ADMINISTRATION'S PLAN FOR NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

Expanded Capability 1

Capability 2

Capability 3

COSTS OF NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

Expanded Capability 1

Capability 2

Capability 3

OTHER ADMINISTRATION PROPOSALS TO COUNTER WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

THE STATUS OF NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

Kill Vehicle and Booster

X-Band Radar

Upgraded Early-Warning Radar

Battle Management Command, Control, and Communications Systems

Space-Based Sensors

The NMD System as a Whole

FLIGHT-TESTING, SCHEDULE, AND DEVELOPMENT ISSUES

The Flight-Test Program

System Development Time

Parallel Development and Production

GLOBAL REACTIONS TO NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

Reactions of Allies

Reactions of Russia and China

Potential Adversaries Developing ICBMs

APPENDIX: COSTS OF IMPLEMENTING THE WELCH PANEL'S RECOMMENDATIONS

GLOSSARY

TABLES

 

1.

Number of Components Deployed at Each Stage of National Missile Defense

2.

Total Costs for National Missile Defense, by Level of Capability, 1996-2015

3.

Costs for Each Level of Capability in the National Missile Defense System

4.

Comparison of Test Programs for Various Missiles

A-1.

The Administration's Estimate of the Costs of Complying with the Recommendations of the Welch Panel

 

FIGURES

 

1.

Annual Costs for National Missile Defense

2.

Proposed Timeline for National Missile Defense

 

BOX

 

1.

The Administration's Estimate Used in This Analysis

SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION

The Administration's planned program for national missile defense (NMD) is designed to defend the entire United States from attack by a relatively small number of incoming ballistic missiles. Those missiles could contain nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons capable of killing thousands or even millions of people. Much of the public debate about NMD has centered on how pressing the threat is or whether the method chosen--hitting an incoming missile with an interceptor missile and destroying both of them through the force of the impact (so-called hit to kill)--is technologically feasible. Those are important questions. But other issues also become important if the President decides to deploy a national missile defense, issues such as the cost of the system, the number of flight tests planned, the relative shortness of the development schedule, and the possible reactions of other nations. This paper examines those issues.

Costs and Schedule for National Missile Defense

The Administration's plan for NMD gives policymakers the flexibility of deploying the system in three phases, each with different capabilities. The Administration could choose to deploy all three sequentially or halt deployment after any one of them. The first phase, known as Expanded Capability 1, would cost nearly $30 billion, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates. That figure includes one-time costs and operating costs through fiscal year 2015. (By comparison, the Administration's estimate is nearly $26 billion.) Continuing on to the second stage, Capability 2, would cost an additional $6 billion, for a total of nearly $36 billion, CBO estimates. Achieving Capability 3, the most extensive and sophisticated stage of NMD deployment, would add more than $13 billion to the costs of Capability 2. Thus, costs for the entire system would total nearly $49 billion through 2015, in CBO's view. (The Administration has not released estimates for Capabilities 2 and 3.) Those CBO estimates do not include the costs of space-based sensors for NMD because the sensors would be used for other missions as well and their costs are included in separate Air Force programs. CBO's estimates attempt to strike a balance between overestimating and underestimating potential NMD costs. (For details of how the Administration's estimate used in this analysis differs from numbers recently reported in the press, see Box 1.)

BOX 1. THE ADMINISTRATION'S ESTIMATE USED IN THIS ANALYSIS

On April 4, 2000, a spokesman for the Department of Defense briefed the press about the costs of the national missile defense system as reported in the December 1999 Selected Acquisition Report (SAR). That document gives the Administration's estimate for total acquisition costs as $20.2 billion (adjusted for inflation) between 1991 and 2026. The $25.6 billion that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) uses as the Administration's estimate in this paper differs from the SAR value for three reasons: it includes operating costs from 2005 through 2015, which CBO estimates would total $7 billion; it excludes $0.7 billion in design costs incurred between 1991 and 1995; and it excludes $0.9 billion in procurement costs planned for 2016 through 2026 (which is beyond the horizon of CBO's analysis).

The Administration's current plan for national missile defense shows Expanded Capability 1 possibly being deployed at the end of fiscal year 2007, Capability 2 at the end of 2010, and Capability 3 at the end of 2011. However, the Administration's current Future Years Defense Program, which runs through 2005, does not include significant funds for those later phases. To begin funding the Capability 2 system after 2005 and still meet the target deployment date of late 2010, CBO estimates, would require annual spending that would surpass $3 billion in 2006 and 2007 (see Figure 1). Moreover, that estimate assumes that the Administration decides not to proceed with Capability 3. If it also attempted to acquire Capability 3 by late 2011--as well as Capability 2 along the way--annual spending would have to exceed $6 billion in 2007 and 2008.

FIGURE 1. ANNUAL COSTS FOR NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on information from the Department of Defense.

The fact that a number of potentially hostile nations are reported to be developing long-range ballistic missiles has instilled a sense of urgency in the Administration, causing it to propose a very ambitious development schedule for NMD. That schedule is significantly shorter than those of previous missile and satellite programs that CBO examined. The abbreviated schedule raises questions in the minds of some analysts about whether enough tests would be conducted to ensure that the system under development actually worked.

CBO has compared the Administration's flight-test program with those of other major missile development efforts to assess whether the number of proposed test flights is appropriate for a program of this complexity. Unfortunately, the record of past programs is ambiguous. One interpretation of that record--that technological advances in computers and ground tests allow more development to occur with fewer flight tests--suggests that the 21 flight tests proposed for NMD might be sufficient. Another interpretation--that missiles developed from existing systems need fewer flight tests but new concepts need more--suggests that NMD would need more flight tests than the Administration has planned. Those tests cost approximately $80 million each.

Another consequence of the shortened schedule for NMD is a large degree of overlap between developing the system, integrating its various components, and producing it. (For example, all of the interceptors for Expanded Capability 1 would be purchased before the first test flight of the initial operational test and evaluation stage of the development program.) Some overlap is not uncommon in missile development efforts. Program managers use concurrent development and production to quickly field weapon systems that are considered vital to the nation's security--which supporters strongly believe NMD to be. However, such overlap can result in both growing costs and, ironically, significant delays in deployment if a system is produced before all of its design problems have been worked out.

Some problems have already occurred in NMD's development. For instance, the system failed to intercept the incoming target during its most recent flight test because of a faulty cooling system in the interceptor. Does that result indicate a serious design problem or a failure in quality control? Both options are potential procurement issues, even if they are not problems with the basic science of the hit-to-kill approach.

Limitations of this Analysis

Because of time constraints, this paper does not fully address a number of important issues, such as how the schedule and costs of the NMD program would change if the Department of Defense (DoD) opted to follow a more traditional, less risky acquisition path. CBO has also not been able to analyze thoroughly how other countries--such as Russia, China, and various rogue states--might adjust their forces because of NMD or what, in turn, the U.S. response to those countries' actions would be and how much it would cost.

In addition, CBO has not attempted to examine the ultimate effectiveness of the NMD system. The estimates in this analysis reflect the costs of the Administration's proposed program plus some additions--such as more operational test and evaluation flights after the system is deployed--that CBO believes would make the program more like previous missile development efforts. CBO assumed that, if successfully implemented, a national missile defense system would be capable of defending the entire United States against several tens of missiles with sophisticated countermeasures. However, defense analysts disagree about the ultimate effectiveness of the NMD system. Many believe that even the simple countermeasures that a country just developing long-range ballistic missiles could use would render NMD impotent. CBO could not make an independent judgment on that point.

THE ORIGINS OF NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

The current plan for national missile defense has its technological origins in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) of the 1980s. SDI researched a large number of technologies for shooting down incoming missiles. They ranged from orbiting laser battle stations to nuclear-tipped interceptor missiles to the hit-to-kill approach chosen for NMD, in which an interceptor destroys an enemy warhead by relying only on the force of their impact. For instance, if a 50-pound interceptor hits its target, the combined speed of the two can be equivalent to over a ton of high explosive.

The mission and the planned design (or architecture) of the national missile defense system have undergone major changes every few years since the mid-1980s. Initially, plans for phase I of SDI involved thousands of interceptors, stationed both on the ground and in space, to defend the United States from a Soviet first strike. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, that program was scaled back to a plan (called Global Protection Against Limited Strikes) that would have deployed hundreds of interceptors in space and on the ground to protect against accidental or unauthorized missile launches.

In 1993, the Clinton Administration changed the emphasis of national missile defense once again, this time from deploying a well-defined system to concentrating on research and development of the supporting technologies. In a move that has become controversial in hindsight, the Administration, together with the intelligence community and the military, concluded that the United States would be able to detect new ballistic missile threats with enough warning to give the country time to deploy an effective defensive system. On the basis of that conclusion, the Administration switched to a strategy--called the "3 + 3 plan"--that would spend three years developing a national missile defense and be prepared to deploy it three years after that (if the threat warranted and the system was technologically ready). The idea was that each year, starting in 2000, the Administration would decide whether to deploy a system three years later.

Recently, however, the intelligence community shortened its estimate of how much warning the United States would have that countries developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were close to deployment. That revision in judgment came shortly after the independent Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (the Rumsfeld Commission) issued a report that reached similar conclusions and after North Korea attempted to orbit a satellite. Although those developments argued for faster deployment of an NMD system, a report by the independent Panel on Reducing Risk in Ballistic Missile Defense Flight Test Programs (the Welch Panel) warned that deployment by 2003 would entail very high risks and possible failure. Upon further review, the Administration restructured its plan so that deployment could occur in 2005 if a decision was made this summer to do so.

Until recently, DoD had planned to hold the deployment readiness review for national missile defense in June, after which the President would decide whether to deploy the system by the end of 2005. However, the failure of an interceptor to hit its incoming target in the most recent NMD flight test has prompted a one-month delay in that review. Nevertheless, DoD has stated that because of the weather-related limits on constructing a vital radar in Alaska, a decision must be made soon if NMD is to be deployed in 2005.

THE ADMINISTRATION'S PLAN FOR NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

The Administration's NMD system is designed to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles as they travel through space. When an enemy missile is launched, the NMD system must detect it, accurately predict where it will be during the 30 or so minutes it will be in flight, determine which of the objects sailing through space toward the United States is the actual missile (as opposed to decoys designed to confuse sensors), and finally send a computer-guided interceptor to collide with the missile's warhead. To accomplish those tasks, NMD depends on a globe-spanning system of satellites, radars, communications systems, and battle management computers to launch and direct interceptors.

Expanded Capability 1

The Administration's plan for developing NMD calls for the first stage, Expanded Capability 1, to be fully deployed by the end of fiscal year 2007 (see Figure 2). That stage is intended to defend the entire United States from attack by several tens of ICBMs that employ simple countermeasures. Because of the perceived urgency of the threat, Expanded Capability 1 will be preceded two years earlier by a "threshold" deployment of 20 interceptors located in central Alaska (see Table 1). That deployment also requires constructing a high-resolution X-band radar and upgrading several existing early-warning radars. Moving to the full Expanded Capability 1 will involve increasing the number of interceptors in Alaska to 100.

FIGURE 2. PROPOSED TIMELINE FOR NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

(By fiscal year)

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on information from the Department of Defense.

 

TABLE 1. NUMBER OF COMPONENTS DEPLOYED AT EACH STAGE OF NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

Component

Threshold Deployment of Capability 1

Expanded Capability 1

Capability 2

Capability 3

 

Interceptorsa

20

100

100

250

Launch Sites

1

1

1

2

X-Band Radars

1

1

4

9

Upgraded Early-Warning Radars

5

5

5

6

Interceptor Communications Facilities

3

3

4

5

 

 

 

 

 

Memorandum:

 

 

 

 

Early-Warning Satellites (SBIRS-high)

2b

4b

5

5

Warhead-Tracking Satellites (SBIRS-low)

0

6c

24

24

Deployment Dated (Fiscal years)

2005

2007

2010

2011

 

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on information from the Department of Defense.

NOTE: SBIRS = Space-Based Infrared System.

a. The number of "kill vehicles" and their associated booster rockets that are deployed. (The national missile defense system will use additional kill vehicles and boosters for testing purposes.)

b. Existing Defense Support Program satellites will also be used for national missile defense.

c. These satellites are planned engineering prototypes.

d. The Department of Defense lists all deployments as occurring in the last quarter of the fiscal year.

 

The current system of U.S. space-based early-warning satellites (the Defense Support Program, or DSP) and its replacement (the high-orbit satellites of the Space-Based Infrared System, or SBIRS-high) play an important role for Expanded Capability 1. They will provide the initial warning that an enemy missile has been launched as well as a relatively crude estimate of its trajectory. That information will be used to tell the X-band and upgraded early-warning radars where to search for the incoming missile. (DSP satellites cannot direct missile defenses, however, because they do not provide sufficiently high quality tracking information. SBIRS-high is also not likely to be able to supply good enough tracking data to direct NMD's interceptors.)

Capability 2

The next stage of national missile defense, known as Capability 2, builds on Capability 1 and is designed to cope with more complex countermeasures, but at the price of being able to handle only a few incoming missiles. Current plans call for Capability 2 to be deployed completely by the end of 2010. To achieve the increased abilities of Capability 2, the system would add three more X-band radars at various sites around the world and more facilities to communicate with interceptors in flight. Most important, the system would draw on 24 SBIRS satellites in low-Earth orbit (known as SBIRS-low). Those satellites will track not only missiles under powered flight (as DSP and SBIRS-high satellites will) but also missiles that are gliding through space and thus are not giving off the bright light associated with powered flight. The number of deployed interceptors and the hardware of those interceptors would not change under Capability 2, according to current plans.

By the time it was deployed, Capability 2 would have the full benefit of both SBIRS-high and SBIRS-low satellites. According to the Administration's plan, SBIRS-high would continue, under Capability 2, to supply early-warning information to the national missile defense system as well as to the rest of the U.S. strategic forces. Those satellites' preliminary estimate of an incoming missile's trajectory would be passed to both the ground-based radars and the SBIRS-low satellites. Most likely, SBIRS-low satellites would spot the incoming missile's warhead and any countermeasures the missile released before ground-based radars could.

If all went according to plan, at least two SBIRS-low satellites would focus on the approaching warhead and determine a more precise path for it. The earlier a precise determination of an incoming warhead's path is made, the sooner the first salvo of interceptors can be fired. SBIRS-low would also record valuable information about the amount of heat given off by the object, which could prove helpful in distinguishing a warhead from decoys.

Although SBIRS-low is intended to continuously buttress the national missile defense system, it will also support theater missile defenses (systems designed to defend areas outside the United States from relatively short range missiles). Both the precise tracking of SBIRS-low and its ability to distinguish warheads from decoys should significantly aid theater missile defenses. Unlike NMD, however, those defenses are limited in both the area they protect and the length of time for which they are designed to be deployed.

Capability 3

The final level of NMD deployment is Capability 3, which includes all of the assets of Capability 2 plus 150 additional interceptors, more radars, another communications facility, and improved software for each of the systems' components. This stage would combine the capabilities of the two earlier stages by defending the country from several tens of incoming missiles with complex countermeasures.

Some of the additional interceptors would be stationed at a second site, currently planned for Grand Forks, North Dakota. That would improve the system's coverage of the United States by placing intercepors closer to the East Coast. From there, they could attack warheads originating in the Middle East at farther distances from the United States--and thus earlier in the warheads' flight--than interceptors based in Alaska could.

COSTS OF NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

CBO estimates that costs for the Expanded Capability 1 stage of NMD would total $29.5 billion through 2015--$20.9 billion for one-time costs and about $8.5 billion for initial operations (see Table 2). That total is $3.9 billion more than the Administration's estimate. Total costs would increase by $6.1 billion if the system progressed to Capability 2 and by another $13.3 billion if it moved to Capability 3--for a total system cost of $48.8 billion. (The Administration has not estimated the additional costs of Capability 2 or 3.)

TABLE 2. TOTAL COSTS FOR NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE, BY LEVEL OF CAPABILITY, 1996-2015

(In billions of dollars)

Type of Cost

Administration's
Estimatea

 

CBO's Estimates

Expanded
Capability 1

 

Expanded
Capability 1

Capability 2

Capability 3

 

Design, Procurement, and Construction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interceptors

6.1

   

7.1

 

9.5

 

12.7

 

 

X-band radars

1.1

   

1.2

 

2.5

 

4.6

 

 

Early-warning radars

1.2

   

1.3

 

1.3

 

1.7

 

 

Command and communications facilities

2.0

   

2.2

 

2.2

 

3.6

 

 

Test and evaluation

2.2

   

2.2

 

2.8

 

2.8

 

 

System integration

5.4

   

5.4

 

5.4

 

5.4

 

 

Construction

0.5

   

1.5

 

1.8

 

4.0

 

 

 

Subtotal

18.6

   

20.9

 

25.6

 

35.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operationsb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operational tests

2.7

   

4.2

 

5.2

 

5.2

 

 

Day-to-day operations

1.9

   

1.9

 

2.4

 

3.4

 

 

Operational integration

2.4

   

2.4

 

2.4

 

5.3

 

 

 

Subtotal

7.0

   

8.5

 

10.0

 

13.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

25.6

 

 

29.5

 

35.6

 

48.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorandum:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annual Cost for Operations After 2015 (In 2000 dollars)

0.6

   

0.6

 

0.7

 

1.1

 

Costs of SBIRS-Lowc

0

   

0

 

10.6

 

10.6

 

 

SOURCES: Congressional Budget Office; Department of Defense.

NOTE: The estimates do not include the costs associated with space-based sensors.

a. The Administration has not released estimates for Capability 2 or Capability 3.

b. These estimates for operations show the costs that would be required through fiscal year 2015. They cover different periods of time based on when each level of capability would be initially operational. The estimate for operations for Expanded Capability 1 covers fiscal years 2005 through 2015; Capability 2, 2010 through 2015; and Capability 3, 2011 through 2015.

c. CBO does not include the costs of the low-Earth orbit satellites of the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) in the costs of national missile defense (NMD) because it believes the satellite program will be deployed--even without NMD--to serve other important missions. Nevertheless, SBIRS-low is critical to the performance of Capability 2, especially in determining how that system is structured. Failure to deploy SBIRS-low would either increase the costs of NMD, reduce its effectiveness, or both.

CBO's estimates of total costs include one-time expenses for such things as design, procurement, and construction as well as operations costs through 2015. The estimates for operations costs cover different periods of time based on when parts of the system would be initially operational. The estimate for operations for Expanded Capability 1 covers 2005 through 2015; the added operations costs for Capability 2 occur in 2010 through 2015; and the additional costs for Capability 3 come in 2011 through 2015. Those estimates assume that the systems complete more rigorous operational test and evaluation programs than those planned by the Administration during their first five years of operation and reach a steady-state level of operations costs in their sixth year. In this paper, annual operations costs after 2015 are expressed in fiscal year 2000 dollars, and all other costs are expressed in the dollars of the relevant year (in other words, adjusted for expected inflation).

CBO's estimates for national missile defense do not include the costs of any of the SBIRS space-based sensors because, as noted earlier, those satellites will have other important missions besides supporting NMD. For example, SBIRS-high and SBIRS-low will replace some current aging systems and will contribute new capabilities for theater missile defense, intelligence, and possibly other programs. Those additional missions may be sufficient to ensure that SBIRS is funded and deployed even if a national missile defense is not. However, failure to deploy those space-based sensors would render NMD less effective and possibly lead to changes in the system that would increase its costs.

In determining the potential costs of national missile defense, CBO attempted to strike a balance between overestimating and underestimating. As with any new and complex program, NMD's future costs are uncertain for several reasons, including the usual imprecision that accompanies cost estimates, the chance that the system as currently envisioned will not work as planned, and the likelihood that circumstances will change and call for a major redefinition of the program.

Estimates can and often do go awry for any program (such as development of a weapon system) that depends on technology. But programs that are at the cutting edge of technology (such as NMD) or that employ new methods of production introduce more risk than programs that are based on the use of proven technology and well-established production methods. CBO's estimates of NMD costs have been adjusted to reflect those risks. For example, they include probable cost growth that is common to systems with many sophisticated components, such as interceptors and radars.

 

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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