U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday stood by a decision to use funding in the recently passed continuing spending resolution to advance work on a battlefield antimissile system that lawmakers have explicitly prohibited further financing, The Hill reported.
The Defense Department maintains that the $380 million allocated in the final fiscal 2013 funding bill for the multinational Medium Extended Air Defense System "superseded" the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act prohibition. The Pentagon pursued the funding on the grounds that ending financial support before fiscal 2013 is over would leave the United States vulnerable to more expensive contract violation penalties.
The United States is co-developing the MEADS system with Italy and Germany but does not intend to acquire any units.
"According to our office of general counsel, I asked for legal advice on this, and they told me that we're obligated to finish that contract as a result of the appropriations" legislation," Hagel said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Representative Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) pushed back at the hearing: "Well I respectfully think you need to get some new lawyers."
Shuster and three other House lawmakers have submitted a bill that would prevent the $380 million from being used for the antimissile program. A corresponding bill was submitted in the Senate.