Friday, July 7, 2000

Navy adding office
for missile defense

Stars and Stripes

WASHINGTON — In a sign of the growing importance of missile defense among Pentagon planners, the Navy has reorganized its top-level staff to make room for a new a new office — the assistant chief of naval operations for missile defense.

The office will have servicewide oversight of "all policy, planning, budgeting, funding, requirements definition, test and evaluation, deployment, training, operational doctrine, tactics and employment" of the Navy’s area and theaterwide ballistic missile defenses as well as overland cruise missile defense.

The move is a reflection of the Navy’s drive to be included as a future player in the arena of ballistic missile defense as the White House moves toward a decision later this summer on whether to proceed with a land-based missile defense system in Alaska.

A crucial test of the proposed system was scheduled for Friday.

"As we begin testing in earnest and prepare to deploy theater ballistic missile defense at sea, we must pull together all the different pieces and organizations into a more focused team," said Adm. Jay Johnson, chief of naval operations.

"This will significantly improve the Navy’s ability to deliver effective missile defenses."

Rear Adm. Rodney Rempt has been tapped to head the new office. He has been serving as deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for theater combat systems.

"Rod Rempt is our expert on missile defense, and this will put him in the driver’s seat for Navy theater ballistic missile defense," Johnson said.

The new office will provide a single point of contact within Johnson’s staff for all missile-defense matters and will strengthen lines of communication with the Defense Department’s Ballistic Missile Defense Office and the other services, officials said.

The Navy also announced that the cruiser USS Lake Erie has been designated the theaterwide test ship for the prototype seaborne ballistic missile defense system that will be tested over the next few years.

"The Navy theaterwide test efforts are too important to the nation to risk frequently shifting test ships," Johnson said. "We need a ship and crew to focus full time on this effort."

USS Lake Erie’s homeport in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, makes the ship’s participation in tests at the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Kauai cost-effective, officials said.

The Navy expects that the ship will not deploy operationally again for about two years.