Reorganizing the Missile Defense Enterprise

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Rethinking the push for program transfer

When the U.S. Missile Defense Agency was created in 2002, the expectation was that it would initially develop missile defense systems but then transfer responsibility for their procurement to the military services that would operate them. The process has not worked out quite as expected.

Missile defense capabilities have matured and several programs have been operationally fielded, but effecting transfer has proven to be complex. MDA has adapted by assuming new roles and missions, not only procuring systems but in some cases funding their operations and sustainment.

In an apparent effort to implement that original intent and improve MDA’s focus on research and development to outpace evolving threats, Congress has attempted to hasten the transfer process, but numerous factors continue to impede that effort. The time seems ripe to re-evaluate the underlying considerations that have slowed transfer, re-evaluate the particular costs and benefits of transfer, and consider some alternative courses of action. Taking an enterprisewide perspective is also necessary to first ascertain what problems, exactly, need to be fixed, and then avoid doing harm in fixing them.

Read the full article at Defense News.

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Tom Karako and Wes Rumbaugh, "Reorganizing the Missile Defense Enterprise," Missile Threat, Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 6, 2018, last modified April 21, 2021,