GAO: Missile Shield Still Has Much to Prove

Ballistic missile defenses to defend the continental United States are being fielded before they’ve been fully developed or proven operationally effective, according to the Government Accountability Office. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptors are “capable of defending the US homeland from a limited ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran,” according to the Fiscal 2015 Director of Operational, Test, and Evaluation report released last month. GAO determined, however, that flight testing to date has been “insufficient to demonstrate that an operationally useful defense capability exists,” according to its Feb. 17 report. The report further states that developing and testing a new kill vehicle to more effectively destroy incoming missiles while fielding GMD threatens the planned deployment timeline. In light of increased threats from North Korea, the Pentagon intends to increase the number of US-deployed interceptors from 30 to 44. The Missile Defense Agency, however, “is relying on a highly optimistic and aggressive schedule that overlaps development and testing with production activities,” GAO warned. Last year the office cited the Pentagon for providing insufficient details on its plan to improve homeland missile defense to Congress. (DOT&E report; Caution, large-sized file.)