A controversial multinational battlefield antimissile program appears set to receive at least a few more months of U.S. federal support through the interim budget resolution approved by Congress last month, Inside Defense reported on Wednesday.
Three congressional committees have refused the Defense Department's request to provide one more fiscal year of funding to the Medium Extended Air and Defense System, which is intended to shield deployed troops from tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and bombers.
However, the continuing resolution passed by Congress would maintain funding to the MEADS initiative to almost the end of March at fiscal 2012 levels. The antimissile program received $400 million for its most recent budget.
The Pentagon has announced it does not plan on purchasing any MEADS units once they become available in 2018. Defense officials, though, argue the United States must continuing funding the program for one more year in order to avoid more expensive contract liabilities that would result from an early pullout and to be eligible to reap side technology benefits from the program in the future. The Obama administration also does not want to harm relations with partners Italy and Germany, which are also providing financing to the antimissile initiative.
Under the trilateral cooperative funding agreement for the MEADS program, a last "call for funds" will take place no sooner than the middle of January, according to Cheryl Irwin, spokeswoman for Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall.
"We will continue to monitor developments in Congress between now and early January," Irwin said in provided comments to Inside Defense. "We will examine the legislative picture in early January to determine whether we have the proper basis to release funds for MEADS."
A statement provided by Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale said: "We will continue to support MEADS under the CR [continuing resolution]."
The theater-level missile defense system is to make an initial intercept attempt late next month, Irwin said.
Senate Armed Services Committee member Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who opposes continuing funding to the Medium Extended Air and Defense System, said the Pentagon should postpone paying the international weapons consortium behind the project. "In the spirit of historical precedence and in accordance with law, DOD should not spend money on MEADS in FY-13 until the appropriations and authorization bills are complete," the senator said in provided remarks.
Begich criticized MEADS as a "wasteful, unproductive, inefficient" effort that has become too costly during a period of enormous financial challenges.