Flashback: Missile Momentum Crosses Party Lines
Test launch of a Ground-based Midcourse Defense missile from a silo in Alaska.
Photo courtesy of Boeing Co.
Well into the second year of President Barack Obama’s first term, uncertainties about policy changes that could affect the defense budget had begun to resolve themselves. Of particular concern to Alabama aerospace defense contractors was the future of the Bush administration’s ambitious plans for a costly “missile defense shield.”
The new Democratic president gave Alabama’s aerospace defense contractors occasion for a few nimble adjustments but not much anxiety. “With Obama, Missile Biz Still Roars,” reported our July 2010 issue. In north Alabama, the missile business was better than ever.
“Many of the current administration’s actions are resulting in a consolidation of work in Huntsville,” said John Holly, vice president of missile defense systems at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co.
Adjustments were made in one component of the missile shield — the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program, designed to knock out incoming missiles in outer space, hitting them with long-range missiles fired from Alaska and California.
Plans to base similar defensive missile silos in Poland were amended for what seemed a less direct intimidation to Russia. Instead, shield deployment in Europe now called for Aegis Ashore, which deployed missiles on port-based naval destroyers.
Rather than developing one type of missile interceptor, the new plan included three types of missiles in addition to the silo-based interceptors: the Aegis Ashore, Patriot missiles, and SM-3 interceptors.
What did not change is that Boeing Strategic Missile and Defense Systems in Huntsville continued to be the prime contractor of the GMD program, in charge of overseeing the entire program and integrating systems from other major defense subcontractors.
Boeing relocated the headquarters for its Strategic Missile and Defense Systems division from Washington, D.C. to Huntsville in 2009, in step with the Pentagon’s decision in 2005 to move the headquarters of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency from D.C. to Huntsville and consolidate much of its operations there. By September 2011, MDA would reassign more than 2,200 jobs to Huntsville, with an economic impact of more than $176 million in payroll alone.
Chris McFadyen is the editorial director of Business Alabama.