GAO Report on Hypersonic Missile Defense

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Missile Defense: Better Oversight and Coordination Needed for Counter-Hypersonic Development. What GAO Found The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues to build components of the Missile Defense System (MDS), test its capabilities, and plan for countering evolving threats. In fiscal year 2021, MDA made progress, but continued […]

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Missile Defense: Better Oversight and Coordination Needed for Counter-Hypersonic Development.

What GAO Found

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues to build components of the Missile Defense System (MDS), test its capabilities, and plan for countering evolving threats. In fiscal year 2021, MDA made progress, but continued to fall short of its goals for asset deliveries and testing. For example, MDA successfully delivered many of the planned interceptors and conducted developmental and operational cybersecurity testing for MDS elements; however, MDA did not conduct any planned system-level cybersecurity tests—leaving MDA without knowledge of its systems’ vulnerabilities and contributing to programmatic delays. The shortfalls to planned system-level tests were partially attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MDA’s efforts to address hypersonic threats include the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) and Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS). These efforts represent technologies that have considerable risks, but MDA has not taken necessary steps to reduce risks and ensure appropriate oversight from the Department of Defense (DOD) or stakeholder involvement.

  • GPI is a missile designed to shoot down a hypersonic weapon in the middle
    (or glide phase) of its flight. Contrary to a DOD directive with which MDA has
    aligned its effort, at the time of our review, MDA did not plan to obtain an
    independent technological risk assessment to determine the maturity of the
    technologies before proceeding with development. In addition, MDA did not
    plan to obtain an independent cost estimate.
  • HBTSS is a concept of space-based sensors to track the unique flight path of
    a hypersonic weapon. However, MDA has not adequately coordinated the
    HBTSS effort with DOD’s Space Development Agency and Space Force.

Increased DOD oversight and involvement would reduce risk. In addition, more clearly delineated roles and responsibilities would help avoid duplication, overlap, or fragmented capabilities among MDA and other View GAO-22-105075. For more information, DOD space agencies.

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