U.S. Missile Defense Must Better Coordinate With Spies, GAO Says

(Bloomberg) -- The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency and military intelligence must improve coordination to share the latest information on North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles to design U.S. interceptors and other systems, according to a newly declassified congressional audit.

There are opportunities for the Missile Defense Agency “to further engage the defense intelligence community” on acquisition plans “to address the challenges of keeping pace with the threat” posed by North Korea and other nations, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Wednesday.

The Missile Defense Agency oversees a $36 billion system of radar, command links and 44 ground-based interceptors in California and Alaska intended to defeat a missile attack, primarily from North Korea. Boeing Co. manages the system.

“MDA uses defense intelligence community threat assessments to inform its acquisitions, but the agency has not fully engaged the defense intelligence community on challenges in preparing” systems “for existing and emerging threats,” the GAO said. The agency published a classified version of the report in May that the Pentagon only recently declassified and allowed GAO to release.

“Although MDA uses defense intelligence community threat assessments to inform” ballistic missile defense procurement, “the defense intelligence community generally has limited insight” into those efforts, “which is unprecedented among major defense acquisition programs,” it said.

One reason is because when the agency was established in 2002 by President George W. Bush, the Pentagon granted it “exceptional flexibility to diverge from the standard acquisition framework that most major defense acquisition programs follow” in an effort to speed decision-making and the deployment of a system, GAO said. But this allowed “MDA to forego obtaining the defense intelligence community’s input on some critical threat-related acquisition processes and decision,” according to the report.

North Korea

North Korea has been on “an unprecedented pace of testing that has shown steady progress,” and may have at least four models of intercontinental ballistic missiles, GAO said.

“Major defense acquisition programs are generally required to engage the defense intelligence community on how to design and test weapon systems, but MDA generally does not,” according to the report.

“MDA has steadily increased its outreach to the defense intelligence community and other stakeholders over the past few years, but opportunities remain for more comprehensive engagement on key challenges the agency faces with keeping pace with the threat,” it said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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