In a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, U.S. Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) renewed their calls on the Department of Defense (DOD) to eliminate Pentagon waste and halt funding for an over-budget and behind-schedule missile defense system. Senators David Vitter (R-LA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Scott Brown (R-MA) cosigned the letter.
The Pentagon has said it does not intend to procure the program known as the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), which has been plagued by consistent scheduling delays and cost overruns, as well as an overall failure to deliver results. The senators' letter comes amid looming sequestration cuts and reflects a bipartisan effort to identify and eliminate waste at the Pentagon during this time of budgetary constraints.
The senators wrote:
"With a national debt surpassing $16 trillion, we can no longer afford to waste taxpayer money developing weapons programs the warfighter will never use. In March 2010 it was widely reported the Army found "the system will not meet U.S. requirements or address the current and emerging threat without extensive and costly modifications.' 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."
The program, which the military has made clear it does not intend to use, is being primarily developed overseas in Italy and Germany while costing the U.S. government millions of dollars. The DOD requested an additional $401 million for MEADS in President Obama's budget for fiscal year 2013.
The Senate and House committees on Armed Services and the House Defense Appropriations Committee all excluded the requested funding for MEADS in their Fiscal Year 2013 DOD appropriations and authorization bills. With the government operating under a temporary continuing resolution, the senators believe the DOD should not spend any money on the program until the relevant budget bills are complete.
Senators Begich and Ayotte have been working together for two fiscal years to eliminate funding for MEADS. Last year they successfully included a provision in the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mandating no additional funds be obligated for MEADS. The bill was enacted into law on December 31, 2011.