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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

GAO: Missile Defense Agency Falls Behind on Upgrades and Flight and Cyber Testing

Missile threats from foreign adversaries have evolved, and MDA has faced persistent challenges as it attempts to keep pace.

The Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) develops systems to detect attacks and track, intercept, and destroy missiles in flight. Every year, MDA sets goals for the systems it plans to deliver to the military and the tests it plans to conduct.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that MDA did not meet these goals in FY 2022. The watchdog said that the agency didn’t deliver all of its planned interceptors and radar upgrades. MDA also didn’t complete its planned flight, ground, or cyber tests for its systems, GAO said.

MDA defends the United States, deployed forces, and regional allies from missile attacks. Since MDA was established in 2002, the Department of Defense has spent over $194 billion, including $10.4 billion in fiscal year 2022. This spending was intended to equip operational commanders with a network of missile defense-related sensors, interceptors, and command and control capabilities. Over this time, missile threats from foreign adversaries have evolved, and MDA has faced persistent challenges as it attempts to keep pace.

GAO found that in 2022, MDA continued to deliver interceptors and radar upgrades to operational commanders, including those that were expected to be delivered in prior years, but it did not meet its annual goals. As a result, the warfighter has less fielded capability than planned. One element—the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system—met its 2022 delivery goals. GAO said MDA did not complete its fiscal year 2022 flight, ground, and cyber baseline test program, consistent with prior years.

Flight tests use actual hardware to demonstrate or assess system performance. MDA conducted six of nine planned tests, and met objectives in five of those six tests. 

Ground tests use simulations to model capabilities and limitations in a wider variety of potential situations than flight tests. MDA conducted a key ground test—originally planned for fiscal year 2020—intended to support decisions necessary to increase capability to defend the United States. However, MDA conducted three of nine planned ground tests, deleting or delaying the tests not conducted to future fiscal years.

Cybersecurity operational assessments evaluate cyber defense capabilities and vulnerabilities. GAO found that MDA conducted two such tests in fiscal year 2022—about a year later than planned—but scaled back the scope of these tests and delayed five other tests to future years.

As of June 2022, there were 23 previously issued recommendations that have not been implemented. GAO continues to believe that implementing these recommendations related to testing, transparency, and cost reporting would help address acquisition issues.

Read the full report at GAO

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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