The Trump Administration’s proposed FY2018 budget for the Missile Defense Agency was released yesterday with a topline request of $7.9 billion. The amount represents $380 million more than the budget submitted by the Obama administration in FY 2017, a five percent increase, and $471 million more than the projected 2018 budget from last year’s Future Years Defense Program, a 6.4 percent increase. The requested amount is $334 million less than was appropriated by Congress last year, a reduction of four percent.
The budget submission softens a recent trend of declining spending on missile defense research and development, bumping the total RDT&E account from a $5.9 billion request in the final Obama submission and a projected $5.5 billion for 2018 to $6.2 billion in the Trump budget.
The increase comes at the cost of some procurement, particularly of Aegis Standard Missile interceptors. While the Trump procurement figure of $1.2 billion is larger than the nearly $1 billion Obama requested for 2017, it is actually down relative to the $1.4 billion previously projected for FY 2018.
Digging into program specifics, homeland defenses in particular received a boost in the Trump budget, potentially signaling a renewed prioritization ahead of the presidentially-directed Ballistic Missile Defense Review and the congressionally-mandated Missile Defeat Review. While the GMD base budget is reduced by $34 million or four percent in comparison to the FY 2017 request, and by $140 million or 14 percent compared to the 2017 appropriation, it is up by $127 million or 18 percent relative to last year’s projected amount for 2018.
The Sea-based X-band Radar, Long Range Discrimination Radar, and Improved Homeland Defense Interceptors (which includes the Redesigned Kill Vehicle and the C3 Booster) lines each received additional funding. Overall, homeland defense RDT&E funding received a $541 million or 34 percent increase compared to the 2017 appropriations, and a $590 million or 39 percent increase over the 2018 FYDP submitted in 2017.
The Trump administration follows the lead of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee (SAC-D) from 2017 by funding the Common Kill Vehicle program at $252.879 million, but unlike SAC-D it also funds a separate Multi-Object Kill Vehicle line, albeit at a significantly lower amount of $6.5 million. The 2018 budget includes a new line for Hypersonic Defense, consistent with the direction in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act making the Missile Defense Agency responsible for developing such a capability. Some $212 million for military construction appears in FY2021 to build a Pacific Radar, presumably for Hawaii.
A few programs received significant reductions in the Trump budget. Testing programs were among the hardest hit, including a reduction for both the base testing budget and the targets program, at least relative to the projected 2018 budget submitted by Obama. The THAAD testing budget shrunk significantly, down by about 43 percent compared to the 2017 request and by 48 percent compared to prior projections. The new budget includes more significant requests for procurement of missile defense assets for Israel in out years, but in 2018 only included $42 million for Iron Dome and $105 million for Israeli-cooperative research and development. In past years, Israeli missile defense foreign assistance has received significant plus ups from Congress—usually at the expense of other U.S. missile defense programs—a pattern that could reoccur again this year.