Six members of Congress sent a letter to the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Defense, urging support of funding for an international missile defense system that is at risk of cancellation by appropriators.
The April 20 letter surfaced the same week that the House will consider a bill that would shut down funding for the Medium Extended Air Defense Systems, known as MEADS, which is being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. with funding from the U.S., Germany and Italy. PresidentBarack Obama requested $400.9 million in his fiscal 2013 budget proposal for the program.
The letter, which was obtained by the Washington Business Journal, reiterated previous arguments made by members of the Defense Department, and German and Italian officials: that unilateral withdrawal from the program would prevent the U.S. from benefiting from the technology advancements made thus far and be a black eye to the international community.
It also noted that most models show operations and sustainment savings of $40 billion over the next three decades if the 60 current missile defense systems in place -- called Patriot -- were replaced with MEADS.
"This makes the best operational and fiscal sense for the U.S. Army, while also providing our allies with the advances in air and missile defense that we promised at the start of the MEADS program," read the letter, signed by Arizona's Trent Franks and Alabama's Robert Aderholt,Mo Brooks, Spencer Bachus, Mike Rogers and Martha Roby.
The total price to develop MEADS is about $3.4 billion. The U.S. is contributing 58 percent of the funding, and Italy and Germany making up the rest, as established under a 2005 memo of understanding among the countries. The U.S. is on the hook to contribute $806 million more, split between 2012 and 2013.
Some members of Congress are pushing to eliminate the funds, essentially forcing the U.S. to back out of its deal with the international partners. That created a firestorm, as shown in responses from the White House and Defense Department, as well as from the German and Italian allies.
After some delay, fiscal 2012 funding for the program was approved and released at the end of April.