Rescuing a critical missile defense system from Pentagon bureaucracy

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JLENS is a dual-radar system that integrates surveillance radar with a separate fire control radar capable of guiding missiles to intercept, track and destroy enemy cruise missiles. The integration of existing missile systems with JLENS, which can be kept aloft in aerostats for as long as 30 days, provides hundreds of miles of around-the-clock, 360-degree defense against enemy aircraft, cruise missiles, and unmanned drones.  
 
The persistent vigilance of JLENS provides superior coverage against enemy missiles at a fraction of the cost of how battle space defense is currently provided.  No less than four Air Warning and Control System aircraft (AWACS) would be needed to provide the same continuous defense coverage as JLENS, which also requires roughly one-fourth the crew to operate. The lower operating costs and manpower requirements of JLENS are entirely consistent with the need to control military spending and manage declining troop levels.
 
The system’s surveillance radar is mature and the entire system was successfully integrated with a Patriot missile battery during an April 25 test that tracked and destroyed a simulated hostile cruise missile. JLENS is exceeding the Army’s expectations and is ready for a planned exercise to further develop the system for deployment.  But this is where Einstein’s axiom comes into play.
 
The Pentagon bureaucracy is holding up funding for the JLENS exercise, demanding a precise location for this exercise be identified before disbursing the funds. This is odd because $40.3 million in exercise funds have been approved by Congress. The Secretary of Defense has approved the exercise, and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has informed the Pentagon that there are no objections to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) supporting the exercise.
 
Amazingly, this is insufficient to dislodge the needed funding. JLENS performs as promised, is successfully tested, is needed by field commanders, lowers the cost of combat operations, is consistent with smaller troop contingents, and has the backing of the Secretary of Defense and the approval of the Congress. What else must a program do to proceed?
 
JLENS can be rescued from the delays in which it is currently mired. The Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs can recognize CENTCOM as the command under which the test exercise will proceed and approve releasing the funds to conduct it. Such executive action would be a simple way to short-circuit a moribund bureaucracy.
 
Unless that happens, Einstein’s quote—which anyone who has worked in government knows to be true—will foretell the premature death of a cost-effective and strategically significant system.
 
Hegseth served as an infantry officer in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was recently a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota, and still serves as a Captain in the Minnesota Army National Guard.