Senators Urge Pentagon to Not Use Any Interim Budget Funding on MEADS

A cross-aisle group of senators last week called on the U.S. Defense Department to refrain from committing any of the interim funding provided by Congress under a continuing budget resolution for fiscal 2013 to the controversial Medium Extended Air and Defense System, according to a joint press release.

Three separate congressional committees ignored Pentagon requests and declined to budget any new funding for the program to develop a battlefield device that would shield deployed troops from short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and enemy fighter planes. Congress, having so far failed to adopt a budget for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through March 27. That resolution, for a few more months, would maintain spending to the MEADS initiative at last year's levels.

Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale has said "we will continue to support MEADS under the CR" but it is not clear when the department would send a fiscal 2013 payment to the international weapons consortium developing the antimissile system.

The Democratic and Republican lawmakers noted in a Friday letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that "the Senate and House Committees on Armed Services and the House Defense Appropriations Committee all excluded the requested funding for MEADS in their FY 2013 DOD appropriations and authorization bills." They called on the department to "adhere to previously passed legislation and to historic precedence from past CRs by not allocating any FY 2013 funds for MEADS" while Capitol Hill finishes negotiating and passing a new budget.

The letter was orchestrated by Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and co-signed by Senators Scott Brown (R-Mass.), David Vitter (R-La.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Mark Udall (D-Colo.).

The Pentagon in 2010 said it had no intention of purchasing any MEADS units when they are completed in 2018. However, the department contends Washington must maintain funding to the embattled program for one more year so as to avoid incurring more expensive contract penalties from an early pullout. The Obama administration also does not want to risk harming ties with allies Italy and Germany, which are also contributing financing to the MEADS program.

"The program has been plagued with cost overruns of nearly $2 billion and is 10 years behind schedule. With budget constraints and well-documented development problems with MEADS these modifications are not a feasible option," according to the lawmakers.

Noting the unprecedented depths of the federal government's debt, the senators said "it is critical at this moment in our nation's history that the department support Congress' continued efforts to provide guidance through the legislative process for a strong and fiscally responsible national security."

October 9, 2012
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A cross-aisle group of senators last week called on the U.S. Defense Department to refrain from committing any of the interim funding provided by Congress under a continuing budget resolution for fiscal 2013 to the controversial Medium Extended Air and Defense System, according to a joint press release.

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