A senior German defense official strongly warned the U.S. Defense Department against cutting or zeroing funding to the development of a troubled trilateral antimissile system, The Hill newspaper reported on Monday (see GSN, June 15).
Germany, Italy and the United States have cooperatively funded the Medium Extended Air Defense System, which was intended to protect troops on the battlefield from short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and enemy fighter planes. The system was scheduled for delivery in 2018.
Washington earlier this year announced it would cease financing the MEADS program after fiscal 2013, capping total U.S. contributions to the effort at $4 billion. The initiative had been confronted with multiple development challenges and appeared likely to require an additional 2 1/2 years and as much as $1.6 billion in further U.S. funding to complete.
German Federal Defense Ministry weapons chief Detlef Selhausen argued against that decision in a letter sent earlier this month to U.S. Defense Department acquisitions head Ashton Carter. The MEADS platform is planned to form "the basis for the German air-defense architecture" and to comprise Berlin's contribution to a planned NATO ballistic missile shield, he wrote (see GSN, July 18).
"This objective can be reached only if the remaining financial commitments necessary for the joint development are met as planned," Selhausen said.
He called on Carter to honor Washington's "contribution commitments -- even beyond the development phase."
The Obama administration has requested $406.6 million to continue system development in fiscal 2012, though some congressional lawmakers would like to see all funding cut. A House appropriations bill would reduce funding for the program in the next budget to $150 million, while defense authorization legislation approved by the chamber would allow a similar spending level.
House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio) said in recent weeks he was bothered by the idea of "authorizing over $800 million in fiscal year 2012 and 2013 for a program that the [Defense] Department does not intend to procure, and whose record of performance, according to a DOD fact sheet, 'might ordinarily make it a candidate for cancellation.'"
The Ohio lawmaker said high-ranking military officials have advised his subcommittee they do not at present have the confidence that a "MEADS proof-of-concept was viable."
The Obama administration has advised Congress that drastically reducing or eliminating all U.S. contributions to the battlefield system would incur new financial penalties for the Defense Department and potentially harm relations with two important partner states. The administration has advised, instead, pressing forward with the project and employing lessons learned to advance different technologies.
"At this time, our partners have no interest in a mutual termination of the MEADS program and the options open are to: (1) terminate unilaterally in accordance with our agreement, or (2) restructure the program to ... a demonstration," Carter said in a May letter to House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.).
"Termination of the program would ensure the department and its international partners receive nothing for our MEADS investment while costing approximately the same amount as the department's request for a proof of concept demonstration," Carter said in his letter.
"We are actively working to ensure that the remaining funds are used in a way to ensure we get something both for our prior and remaining investment," the acquisitions chief continued (John Bennett, The Hill, July 18).