Home » Budget Industry » MDA Quietly Revises Projected Ballistic Missile Defense Ship Totals Down from FY 2016 Budget Request


MDA Quietly Revises Projected Ballistic Missile Defense Ship Totals Down from FY 2016 Budget Request

An SM-3 Block 1B interceptor is launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70) during a Missile Defense Agency test in 2013. MDA Photo

An SM-3 Block 1B interceptor is launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70) during a Missile Defense Agency test in 2013. MDA Photo

A recent change in how the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) counts ballistic missile defense (BMD) ships lowers projected future totals from what the agency estimated in its Fiscal Year 2016 budget request to Congress, USNI News has learned.

Instead of 48 “BMD capable ships” the MDA estimated the U.S. would have by FY 2020 the force will be instead 39 “BMD deployable ships” — a difference of nine ships.

The change came during a conference between MDA and Navy officials in late June and was made to better align the agency with how the service counts its assets.

Prior to a June change, the MDA had counted a newly BMD capable ship as one that had the necessary hardware to operate but didn’t account for the at least six months of training the Navy crew needed to be qualified to effectively operate the ship.

According to the BMD counts obtained by USNI News, the numbers were aligned up to FY 2015 but began to diverge in FY 2016 and beyond until the 2020 totals.

MDA PB16

FY15

FY16

FY17

FY18

FY19

FY20

BMD Capable Ships

33

35

37

40

43

48

When asked for additional information on why MDA shifted how it counted BMD ships, the agency provided a brief statement to USNI News and did not elaborate.

“The Missile Defense Agency has aligned BMD ship counting with the Navy methodology,” read the complete MDA statement.

 

FY15

FY16

FY17

FY18

FY19

FY20

 

BMD Deployable Ships

33

33

33

36

38

39

In addition to revising its count for new BMD ships, the MDA and Navy agreed they would remove Ticonderoga-class cruisers from the BMD ship count when they start their modernization availability.

As part of the service’s plan for upgrades, the cruisers will lose their basic BMD capability during the availability.

At least one member of Congress told USNI News the agency’s projections of BMD assets was “misleading.”

“The Missile Defense Agency’s proposal to count a ship as being BMD-capable when it’s crew has yet to receive its needed training defies logic, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, told USNI News in a statement.

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69) transits the Strait of Gibraltar on March 31, 2015, as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. US Navy photo.

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69) transits the Strait of Gibraltar on March 31, 2015, as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. US Navy photo.

Forbes compared the MDA’s methodology to the Navy counting the Ticonderoga-class cruisers it plans to sideline for modernization and leave with a reduced crew as BMD capable.

“Showing ships with untrained crews as BMD-capable is as misleading as including cruisers removed from the fleet for up to four years as contributing to the Navy’s BMD mission,” he said.

The revision in the MDA BMD count comes as the service struggles to effectively modernize its fleet of Aegis-equipped Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyers (DDG-51) to include the in-demand capability. According to the Pentagon, the demand from operational commanders is for about 70 BMD capable ships versus the 33 in the inventory today.

Earlier this year, USNI News reported the service planned to further reduce the number of BMD upgrades to Flight IIA Arleigh Burke due to budget constraints.

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Categories: Budget Industry, News & Analysis, Surface Forces, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.