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"ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent."

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
Kingston Reif

Pentagon Seeks New Missile Interceptor


October 2019
By Kingston Reif

The U.S. Defense Department has formally canceled its program to design an upgraded kill vehicle for the U.S. long-range missile defense system and will instead seek to build a new interceptor for the system.

A U.S. plan to replace the exoatmospheric kill vehicle, shown here as an artists' conception, were formally cancelled in August. (Image: Raytheon)An Aug. 21 Pentagon statement said that effective the next day, the Pentagon would terminate the Boeing Company’s contract to build the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) “due to technical design problems.”

The announcement followed the department’s decision in May to order Boeing, the lead contractor for the $67 billion Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, to stop all work on the new kill vehicle. (See ACT, July/August 2019.) The GMD system is designed to defend the United States against a limited, long-range ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran.

“Ending the program was the responsible thing to do,” Mike Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said in the statement. “Development programs sometimes encounter problems. After exercising due diligence, we decided the path we’re going down wouldn’t be fruitful, so we’re not going down that path anymore.”

Congress has appropriated more than $1 billion for the RKV program, from the program’s inception in fiscal year 2015 through fiscal year 2019.

The RKV was intended to be more reliable and cost effective than the current generation of GMD kill vehicles that have seen mixed test results and face an evolving threat, particularly from North Korea. The system has an intercept success rate of just more than 50 percent in controlled testing.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) planned to deploy the RKV beginning in 2021 atop 20 new interceptors in Alaska to augment the existing fleet of 44 interceptors there and in California. The RKV was also intended to replace the aging kill vehicles atop the current fleet.

The demise of the RKV could delay the fielding of the additional interceptors “to the 2030 timeframe at the earliest under the current acquisition requirements” to compete, test, and certify a new interceptor “in operational and realistic conditions,” the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance said in an Aug. 21 alert.

The termination will likewise delay the modernization of the existing fleet of ground-based interceptors, the oldest of which were fielded between 2004 and 2007.

According to the Government Accountability Office, ground-based interceptors “only have an initial service life of 20 years and [the] MDA previously decided not to make any upgrades to the [original interceptor] because of initial plans to begin replacing them with RKVs in 2020.”

In the wake of the failure of the RKV program, the Defense Department plans to develop an entirely new long-range interceptor that will also include a new kill vehicle.

John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, said at a Sept. 17 event in Washington that the department plans to issue “what we will hope will be the final request for proposals” to industry for the new interceptor in October.

“We are positioned for near-term responses from industry, and the Missile Defense Agency advises me that they’re poised to try to rapidly move to award,” he added.

The Pentagon has released few details about the requirements for the new interceptor, the proposed timeline to develop and field it, or the estimated cost.

Rood said the MDA will continue existing plans to build 20 additional missile silos in Alaska “to be ready to house” the new interceptors.

The plan to develop the new interceptor is part of “a realignment of over $12 billion in current budget plans for development of a Next-Generation Interceptor” for the GMD system, according to the report accompanying the Senate Appropriations Committee version of the fiscal year 2020 defense appropriations bill.

In addition to the Next-Generation Interceptor, the $12 billion figure includes funding for research, development, test, and evaluation; procurement; and operations and maintenance for the entire GMD program from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2030, a defense official told Inside Defense on Sept. 13.

Unlike the other involved Senate and House committees, the Senate Appropriations Committee published
its defense bill after the cancellation of the RKV.

The bill supported the MDA proposal to shift $728 billion in fiscal year 2019 and 2020 funding for the GMD system to support “a competitive acquisition” of the new interceptor “while addressing current GMD requirements.” The bill would provide $222 million specifically for the new interceptor.

 

The Defense Department has ended a program to design a new missile defense kill vehicle after the system failed to overcome technical hurdles. 

Members Briefing on the Future of New START

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October 1, 2019
3:00pm Eastern U.S. time

The New START agreement between the United States and Russia—now the only agreement limiting the world’s two largest nuclear weapons arsenals following termination of the INF Treaty—is scheduled to expire in February 2021 unless Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin mutually agree to extend it by five years.

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton was a harsh critic of extending New START. What does Bolton's departure from the administration in September mean for the future of the treaty?

Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction, and Thomas Countryman, board chair and former acting undersecretary of state for arms control, briefed members on what could be the most important national security decision in a generation.

These calls are open to members of the Arms Control Association. Audio recordings of the call may be made available for nonmembers at some point following the call. Join or renew your membership today to receive details on how to join us for our next members call and be part of the conversation. 

AUDIO RECORDING: The Future of New START, October 1 Members Call

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Join Kingston Reif and Thomas Countryman for a members-only briefing on the future of the New START agreement between the United States and Russia.

Country Resources:

Will The INF Treaty's Collapse Restart a Dangerous Nuclear Arms Race?

News Source: 
CGTN
News Date: 
September 20, 2019 -04:00

U.S.-Saudi Nuclear Cooperation Policy Still Far from Adequate (UPDATED)

UPDATE, Sept. 19 : A day after we published this post, Bloomberg revealed that Energy Secretary Rick Perry's letter to the Saudi's also stated that "The terms of the 123 Agreement [with Saudi Arabia] must also contain a commitment by the kingdom to forgo any enrichment and reprocessing for the term of the agreement." This is good news and the right policy, as we describe below. Such a commitment should have a long-term duration, be legally-binding, and apply to both U.S.-origin and non-U.S. origin fuel. Over the past two years, the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia have been engaged in...

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, Sept 13, 2019

U.S. Tests Ground-Launched Cruise Missile On Aug. 18, less than two weeks after the official collapse of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the United States tested a ground-launched variant of the Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile that would have been prohibited by the treaty. The test was a clear signal that the United States can and will pursue such systems in the absence of the INF Treaty. In a statement, the Defense Department said the “test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight. Data...

Trump's Acting National Security Adviser Said Nuclear War With USSR Was Winnable

News Source: 
Huffington Post
News Date: 
September 13, 2019 -04:00

If Trump Ends Another Nuclear Treaty, it Will Be the Height of Folly

During his first two and a half years in office, President Donald Trump and his administration have laid waste to numerous international agreements originally designed to strengthen US security, bolster US alliances, and constrain US adversaries. The toll has been particularly high with respect to deals concerning nuclear arms control and nonproliferation. Over the past 14 months, the administration has withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and abandoned the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty . Both of these valuable agreements have been discarded without a viable plan to...

Iran Takes Another Step Away from Compliance with the JCPOA, Experts Available

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For Immediate Release: September 5, 2019

Media ContactsKingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 104; Thomas Countryman, board chair, 301-312-3445; Daryl Kimball, executive director, 202-277-3478

Iran is poised to take a third step away from compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in retaliation to the U.S. withdrawal from the deal in May 2018 and phased re-imposition of sanctions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sept. 4 ordered the atomic energy organization of Iran “to immediately start whatever is needed in the field of research and development, and abandon all the commitments that were in place regarding research and development.” He referred to “expansions in the field of research and development, centrifuges, different types of new centrifuges, and whatever we need for enrichment.”

The atomic energy organization is scheduled to detail the specific steps that will be taken on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Iran earlier this summer announced that it would renege on its commitments to increase the low-enriched uranium stockpile above the 300-kilogram limit of 3.67 percent enriched uranium and enrich uranium above the 3.67 percent level.

Iran’s latest step away from the deal comes after the U.S. government apparently rejected a proposal by French President Emmanuel Macron to extend Iran a $15 billion line of credit guaranteed by future Iranian oil sales in return for Iran’s return to compliance with the JCPOA and a return to negotiations on regional security and the future of Iran’s nuclear program.

Brian Hook, the State Department coordinator on Iran, told reporters on Sept. 4 that “We can't make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure and we are not looking to grant any exceptions or waivers.”

QUICK QUOTES

“The most responsible path forward is for Iran to exercise restraint and for all parties to return to full compliance with the JCPOA and agree to open follow-on negotiations to address issues of mutual concern.” – Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

“It would be a self-defeating and counterproductive mistake for the Trump administration to reject the plan proposed by President Macron to salvage the JCPOA, retain the strong limits on Iran’s nuclear program, and create the opportunity for further dialogue. The administration’s rejection of this proposal is further confirmation that it is not serious about diplomacy with Iran.” – Thomas Countryman, former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and chair of the ACA board of directors

“While Iran’s decision to breach a third JCPOA nuclear limit does not pose a near-term proliferation risk, it is worrisome and could be followed by more serious steps if the United States continues to reject reasonable offers for dialogue and for easing tensions. Iran has indicated that it is willing to return to compliance with the JCPOA but is seeking leverage to counter the U.S. maximum pressure campaign, which has systematically denied Iran the sanctions relief it was promised as part of the 2015 nuclear deal.” – Daryl G. Kimball, executive director 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

EXPERTS AVAILABLE IN WASHINGTON

  • Kingston Reif, ​Director for ​D​​​​isarmamen​​t and ​T​h​​reat ​R​e​​d​​uction​ ​Policy​, ​[email protected], 202-463-8270 ext. 104
  • Thomas Countryman, former​ ​Acting​ ​U​nder ​S​ecret​​ary of ​​S​tate for​ ​Arms​ ​Control and ​International ​S​ecur​​ity, and ​​Chair of the Board for the Arm​​s Control Association, [email protected], 301-312-3445
  • Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, [email protected], 202-277-3478

Or contact Tony Fleming, director for communications, 202-463-8270 ext. 110 / 202-213-6856 (mobile) to schedule an interview.

Description: 

While Iran’s decision to breach a third JCPOA nuclear limit does not pose a near-term proliferation risk, it is worrisome and could be followed by more serious steps if the United States continues to reject reasonable offers for dialogue and for easing tensions.

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