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CSIS Event Summary: “MDA and the 2025 Budget”

On Thursday, June 6th, trainee Margrethe attended an enlightening event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) titled "MDA and the 2025 Budget." The conversation featured Lieutenant General Heath Collins, Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and was moderated by Dr. Tom Karako, Senior Fellow at CSIS. The discussion centered around the MDA's Fiscal Year 2025 programs, priorities, and budget allocations.

Lut. Gen. Collins emphasized the MDA’s mission to provide layered missile defense for the homeland, deployed warfighters, and partner nations. Lt. Gen. Collins described their expertise in systems engineering, integrating a global network of sensors, and battle management systems. He lauded the MDA's ability to adapt and modernize existing systems while developing new technologies to counter emerging threats.

Addressing Evolving Threats

Gen. Collins noted that while traditional ballistic missile threats from countries like North Korea and Iran remain a major concern, new challenges have emerged with the proliferation of cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles, particularly from nations such as Russia and China. Russia has been aggressively developing and deploying technologies like the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle and the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, designed to bypass existing missile defense systems. Similarly, China is rapidly advancing its capabilities with systems like the DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle and various sophisticated cruise missiles. These developments underscore the increasing blur between air defense and missile defense, necessitating a comprehensive approach to integration and response to address multiple threat vectors simultaneously.

Collins’ mantra, “Go fast, think big,” encapsulates the MDA’s approach to innovation and rapid deployment. He stressed the importance of delivering capabilities swiftly to meet the urgent needs of warfighters while also planning for future threats.

Technological Advances and Future Capabilities

Gen. Collins spoke about the development of the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI), designed to address threats anticipated in 2035 and beyond. He also mentioned the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) as a critical component in countering hypersonic threats. The MDA’s focus on directed energy and non-kinetic technologies was presented as part of their long-term strategy to enhance missile defense capabilities.

The practical impact and the real world implications of what Lt. Gen. Collins were saying became very clear when they discussed recent real events. The Iranian attack on Israel in April Iran prompted a complex synchronized offensive. This attack involved the simultaneous launch of ballistic missiles, one-way UAVs, and cruise missiles, all targeting Israeli air defense systems. The U.S. MDA is backing Israel's missile defense system, and together with other allies, they were able to counter all Iranian missiles with no loss of life. 

Similarly, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has highlighted the necessity of robust missile defense systems. Ukraine has faced integrated attacks involving cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, hypersonic maneuvering missiles, and UAVs. The continuous and large-scale nature of these attacks has emphasized the need for sustained defense capabilities and strategic resilience. These real-world scenarios show us the critical role that integrated missile defense systems play in modern warfare.

The conversation underscored the MDA's pivotal role in national security and the necessity of continuous innovation and integration. Lt. Gen. Collins’ insights provided a comprehensive understanding of the agency's strategic direction and operational priorities. The call to action was clear: to maintain and enhance the United States’ missile defense capabilities through sustained investment, agile development, and robust collaboration across the defense enterprise.

For more details and to watch the event recording, visit CSIS: MDA and the 2025 Budget.

Picture by Margrethe Frøland, June 6. 2024

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