Ballistic Missile Defense:

Actions Needed to Improve Planning and Information on Construction and Support Costs for Proposed European Sites

GAO-09-771: Published: Aug 6, 2009. Publicly Released: Aug 6, 2009.

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The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) estimated in 2008 that the potential costs of fielding ballistic missile defenses in Europe would be more than $4 billion through 2015. Planned ballistic missile defenses in Europe are intended to defend the United States, its deployed forces, and its allies against ballistic missile attacks from the Middle East. They are expected to include a missile interceptor site in Poland, a radar site in the Czech Republic, and a mobile radar system in a still-to-be-determined European location. GAO was asked to evaluate the Department of Defense's (DOD) plans for missile defense sites in Europe and address to what extent DOD has (1) planned for the sites' implementation and (2) estimated military construction and long-term operations and support costs. Accordingly, GAO reviewed key legislation; examined policy and guidance from MDA, the Army, the Air Force, and the Army Corps of Engineers; analyzed budget documents and cost estimates; and visited sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.

DOD has begun planning for the construction and implementation of the European missile defense sites, including coordinating with international partners and U.S. stakeholders; however, several challenges affecting DOD's implementation of ballistic missile defenses in Europe remain. First, neither Poland nor the Czech Republic has ratified key bilateral agreements with the United States, limiting DOD's ability to finalize key details of the sites, such as how security will be provided. Second, DOD's efforts to establish the roles and responsibilities of key U.S. stakeholders for the European sites remain incomplete because MDA and the services have not yet made important determinations, such as establishing the criteria that must be met before the transfer of the European missile defense sites from MDA to the Army and Air Force. Since 2002, MDA has been directed by DOD to begin planning for the transfer of missile defense elements, including the direction to coordinate with the services on resources and personnel needed to provide an effective transition of responsibility. Without clear definitions of the roles that MDA and the services will be responsible for and agreement on criteria for transfer, DOD will continue to face uncertainties in determining how the European Interceptor Site and the European Midcourse Radar Site will be sustained over the long term. DOD's cost estimates for military construction and operations and support have limitations and do not provide Congress complete information on the true costs of ballistic missile defenses in Europe. Key principles for cost estimating state that complete cost estimates are important in preparing budget submissions and for assessing the long-term affordability of a program. Further, according to DOD military construction regulations, the Army Corps of Engineers typically certifies that key construction design milestones have been met and verifies military construction cost estimates before the estimates are submitted as budget requests. However, DOD's original military construction estimates in the fiscal year 2009 budget did not include all costs, primarily because MDA submitted the estimates before accomplishing key design milestones and without a review by the Army Corps of Engineers. Consequently, DOD's projected military construction costs for the interceptor and radar sites could potentially increase from DOD's original $837 million estimate to over $1 billion. DOD operations and support cost estimates are also incomplete because they do not include projected costs for base operations that will be managed by the Army and Air Force. Key cost factors that will affect these estimates, such as how security will be provided at the sites, remain undefined. In addition, MDA and the services have not yet agreed on how the operations and support costs for the interceptor and radar sites will be funded over the long term. As a result, Congress does not have accurate information on the full investment required for ballistic missile defenses in Europe.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve fiscal stewardship of DOD resources for ballistic missile defense, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA and the Army and Air Force, in time for the fiscal year 2011 budget submission, to complete life cycle operations and support cost estimates for the European Interceptor Site and the European Midcourse Radar Site.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: We claimed a financial accomplishment for the termination of this program. The administration announced a restructuring of European ballistic missile defenses in September 2009, to include the termination of plans for the interceptor site in Poland and radar site in the Czech Republic.

    Recommendation: To provide for more complete military construction estimates for future ballistic missile defense sites, such as the still-to-be-determined European site for the mobile radar system, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA to follow military construction regulations by utilizing the Army Corps of Engineers to complete required site design and analysis and verify military construction cost estimates before submitting cost estimates to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: We claimed a financial accomplishment for the termination of this program. The administration announced a restructuring of European ballistic missile defenses in September 2009, to include the termination of plans for the interceptor site in Poland and radar site in the Czech Republic.

    Recommendation: To provide for military construction cost estimates for ballistic missile defenses in Europe that are based on the best available data, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA, in coordination with the Army and Air Force, to provide Congress annually, in alignment with the budget, updated military construction cost estimates for the European Interceptor Site and the European Midcourse Radar Site that reflect the data gathered from all site design efforts since project initiation; have been independently reviewed and verified by the Army Corps of Engineers; account for all military construction costs for the sites, including Army and Air Force base support facility requirements, recognizing that certain assumptions about host nation contributions will have to be made; and include costs for possible currency fluctuations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: We claimed a financial accomplishment for the termination of this program. The administration announced a restructuring of European ballistic missile defenses in September 2009, to include the termination of plans for the interceptor site in Poland and radar site in the Czech Republic.

    Recommendation: To improve planning for the long-term support of the ballistic missile defense sites in Europe, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA, the Army, and the Air Force to finalize the Overarching Memorandums of Agreement and element-specific annexes that detail the specific roles and responsibilities for the European sites and define the criteria that must be met before the transfer of those sites from MDA to the Army and Air Force.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: We claimed a financial accomplishment for the termination of this program. The administration announced a restructuring of European ballistic missile defenses in September 2009, to include the termination of plans for the interceptor site in Poland and radar site in the Czech Republic.

    Recommendation: To improve fiscal stewardship of DOD resources for ballistic missile defense, the Secretary of Defense should direct MDA and the Army and Air Force, in time for the fiscal year 2011 budget submission, to clearly define who is responsible for funding these operations and support costs over the elements' life cycles.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: We claimed a financial accomplishment for the termination of this program. The administration announced a restructuring of European ballistic missile defenses in September 2009, to include the termination of plans for the interceptor site in Poland and radar site in the Czech Republic.

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