May 13 2009

Shelby to Missile Defense Agency: Rescind KEI Stop Work Order

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, today sent a letter to Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), objecting to the stop work order MDA issued May 11, 2009 on the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI).  KEI provides critical ballistic missile defense capabilities and strategic flexibility to protect against constantly evolving ballistic missile threats.  With over $1 billion already invested in the project and $135 million in funding remaining for Fiscal Year 2009, no justification was provided for MDA’s decision on KEI, which is just four months from a flight test.  Shelby urged O’Reilly to rescind the stop work order:

“Terminating the only practical boost phase missile defense capability our nation has in development is misguided,” said Shelby.  “Stopping work on the program now is irresponsible.”

The full text of the letter is below. 

May 13, 2009

Lieutenant General Patrick J. O’Reilly
Director
Missile Defense Agency
Office of the Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301

Dear General O’Reilly,

I am writing with serious objections to the stop work order issued May 11, 2009, for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI).  A decision to stop work on this program is premature and without justification.

KEI was initiated in Fiscal Year 2004, and its performance and strategic flexibility have been acknowledged by the Missile Defense Agency as providing critical ballistic missile defense capabilities.  The Department of Defense has invested over $1 billion in KEI to date.  The program is four months from a flight test, with a full pathfinder missile already assembled, erected, and on the launch pad.  With approximately $135 million in funding remaining in Fiscal Year 2009 for this program, it is misguided to prevent the test from being conducted.  Regardless of the perceived future of this program, the Department of Defense should leverage the investment in this technology, complete the upcoming flight test, and gain the significant technical knowledge it will provide to benefit future missile development initiatives.

With no justification provided before the stop work order was issued, this decision appears solely based on a recommended budget reduction for the next fiscal year – a proposal announced a mere five days ago.  Simply calling for the termination of a program does not mean Congress will rubber stamp that decision.  Terminating the only practical boost phase missile defense capability our nation has in development is misguided.  Stopping work on the program now is irresponsible.

The Administration has chosen to stop work on a program that offers the strategic flexibility that is essential to protect against constantly evolving ballistic missile threats.  Given the uncertainty surrounding Fiscal Year 2010 funding levels, executing the remaining Fiscal Year 2009 program and moving forward with the September flight test ensures we have a better understanding of this system’s capabilities.  I urge you to rescind the stop work order.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. 

Sincerely,

Richard Shelby