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Sen. Hirono again seeks funding for Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii

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The Senate Armed Services Committee today added an $85 million authorization for the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii during its markup of the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act — rejecting the Biden administration’s decision to zero out funding for the project in its budget request, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said.

However, the funding proposal, which still needs to make its way through Congress, is seen as keeping the big radar, which now is approaching $2 billion or more due to ongoing delays, on life support.

The radar “will be a key component of our nation’s ballistic missile defense system against evolving threats from North Korea and elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific,” Hirono’s office said in a release.

The $85 million in funding would allow the Missile Defense Agency to continue radar production activities, environmental and siting efforts, and provide necessary program support to keep the program’s development on track.

The release also said the committee approved language that directs the Missile Defense Agency director, in consultation with the U.S. Indo-Pacific commander, to provide a briefing to the congressional defense committees on current and future threats, and the capability the radar, known as HDR-H, provides against future threats.

“The people of Hawaii deserve to be protected in an increasingly unpredictable region, and HDR-H remains a crucial part of our nation’s layered defense system. Leaders at Indo-Pacom, MDA, and U.S. Forces Korea have all named HDR-H a priority for Hawaii’s protection; yet, when I repeatedly asked (the Defense Department) to explain why HDR-H was zeroed out or what new system could achieve the same capability, it did not provide a satisfactory explanation,” Hirono said. “I will advocate for HDR-H’s inclusion in the final, Senate-approved NDAA because the entire United States should receive the same level of protection from credible missile detection technology.”

Last year, the Hawaii Democrat successfully advocated for the reinstatement of funding for the radar in the Senate Armed Services Committee NDAA markup, eventually securing $133 million after the Trump administration zeroed out the program.

In June, the Missile Defense Agency announced that the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai was the “preferred” location in an ongoing environmental analysis for the radar — which is an all-but-dead project in the eyes of the Pentagon as it now contends with maneuvering hypersonic threats.

In 2019, the Hawaii radar was postponed, and in two subsequent budget years no funding has been sought by the Pentagon. It is not included in long-range budget planning.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation wants the project to proceed for the defense of the Aloha State.

The fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Missile Defense Agency to develop a plan to construct and operate a “discrimination radar,” or equivalent sensor, that will improve homeland missile defense for Hawaii, according to the agency.

The Missile Defense Agency said the Hawaii radar, with an 85-foot face, would help track and discriminate (i.e., identify warheads among debris and decoys) increasingly sophisticated long-range missile threats in the Pacific theater.

The agency said it was using the previous $133 million congressional “plus up” for production of “critical radar components” and studies “for the siting and development of the (radar) — should a deployment decision be made and is funded.”

U.S. homeland defense seeks to defeat North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles, but not highly sophisticated Russian or Chinese ICBMs.

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