The Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, which is carried out by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Navy, gives Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers a capability for conducting BMD operations. Under MDA and Navy plans, the number of BMD-capable Navy Aegis ships is scheduled to grow from 23 at the end of FY2011 to 41 at the end of FY2016, and the cumulative number SM-3 Aegis BMD interceptor missiles delivered to the Navy is scheduled to grow from 111 at the end of FY2011 to 341 at the end of FY2016.
Under the Administration’s European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) for European BMD operations, BMD-capable Aegis ships have begun operating in European waters to defend Europe from potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as Iran. BMD-capable Aegis ships also operate in the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf to provide regional defense against potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as North Korea and Iran.
The Aegis BMD program is funded mostly through MDA’s budget. The Navy’s budget provides additional funding for BMD-related efforts. MDA’s proposed FY2012 budget requests a total of $2,380.3 million in procurement and research and development funding for Aegis BMD efforts, including funding for Aegis Ashore sites that are to be part of the EPAA.
Some observers are concerned—particularly in light of the EPAA—that demands from U.S. regional military commanders for BMD-capable Aegis ships are growing faster than the number of BMD-capable Aegis ships. They are also concerned that demands from U.S. regional military commanders for Aegis ships for conducting BMD operations could strain the Navy’s ability to provide regional military commanders with Aegis ships for performing non-BMD missions.
Issues for Congress include whether to approve, reject, or modify MDA and Navy funding requests for the Aegis BMD program, and whether to provide MDA or the Navy with additional direction concerning the program. Options for Congress include, among other things, the following: accelerating the modification of Aegis ships to BMD-capable configurations, increasing procurement of new Aegis destroyers, increasing procurement of SM-3 missiles, and providing funding for integrating the SM-2 Block IV BMD interceptor missile into the 4.0.1 version of the Aegis BMD system.
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