Pentagon Questions Proposed MEADS Program Limits

The Defense Department's chief procurement official has questioned a House of Representatives' proposal to restrict additional funding for the expiring MEADS missile defense system, The Hill reported on Monday (see GSN, March 22).

The Medium Extended Air Defense System was being jointly funded by the United States, Italy and Germany. The system had been intended to protect battlefield troops from short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and hostile aircraft, and was slated for delivery in 2018, according to a previous report.

The Obama administration, though, announced in February that Washington would not provide funding for the program after fiscal 2013. The program has faced various obstacles in its development life and appeared set to require another 30 months of planning and development, and $1.6 billion in extra U.S. funding from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2017.

The fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill approved this month by the House of Representatives would cut the program's allowed financing by $149.5 million (see GSN, May 4). It would restrict fiscal 2012 spending on the program until the Pentagon chief either "negotiates a multilateral termination," or "restructures the program and ensures deliverables are transferred to one or more current program(s) of record," according to an earlier report. The Defense secretary would also have to provide figures on the total U.S. liability cost, terms of terminating the program contract and other details.

House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio) voiced reservations about “authorizing over $800 million in fiscal year 2012 and 2013 for a program that the 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.’”

High-level armed forces officials said in testimony they were unsure that a “MEADS proof-of-concept was viable,” Turner added.

In a May 9 written statement, Defense Undersecretary Ashton Carter noted concerns about potential limits on program spending.

“At this time, our partners have no interest in a mutual termination of the MEADS program and the options open to use are: (1) terminate unilaterally in accordance with our agreement, or (2) restructure the program to … a demonstration,” Carter said.

“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,” he stated in a letter to Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

“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,” Carter wrote, adding the proposed $149.5 million program reduction leaves it “impractical to carry out either of the options available.”

“Adoption of this provision, when combined with the cut in funding, would leave us with no executable plan for MEADS,” Ashton wrote (John Bennett, The Hill, May 30).

May 31, 2011
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The Defense Department's chief procurement official has questioned a House of Representatives' proposal to restrict additional funding for the expiring MEADS missile defense system, The Hill reported on Monday (see GSN, March 22).