MEADS Needs To Be Defunded Immediately
As Leon Panetta is confirmed as Secretary of Defense there are many questions that he will have to face. One of the most daunting tasks in front of Sec. Panetta will be the ability to balance a strong defense with necessary budget cuts. A program that could serve as a real life case study is the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). MEADS, originally conceived as the replacement to the Patriot missile system, is being jointly built by the United States, Italy, and Germany with the Americans shouldering more than 50 percent of the cost. Even though the Army doesn’t want the project, there was an additional $800 million allocated in February 2011 for the project through 2013.
MEADS is expensive. ArmyTimes.com reports that “The Pentagon has already spent $1.5 billion on MEADS. In addition to the $974 million required by the NATO MEADS Management Agency, the Pentagon estimates another $800 million would be needed for U.S.-unique test and evaluation activities.” Total development will cost $2.8 billion and full production will cost more than $25 billion. MEADS has also experienced significant production delays. Initial production was supposed to start in 2007 but that date was pushed back to 2014 and now the latest production date is 2018. And, if history is any guide, 2018 may be optimistic.
The current discussion is not about the capability of the Patriot system versus the MEADS system, it is a battle between politics and fiscal and military common sense. A March 9, 2010 Washington Post article notes that "the Army says MEADS has become too expensive, is taking too long to produce and is difficult to manage because any changes in the program require German and Italian approval. 'The system will not meet U.S. requirements or address the current and emerging threat without extensive and costly modifications,' an internal Army staff memo concluded last month in recommending the cancellation of MEADS."
Pentagon officials claim that the reason for the additional $800 million is because it would be too costly to terminate the program and that they would like to have something to show for the money that has already been spent. The Pentagon is also concerned about the agreement that the United Sates has with Germany and Italy. But, Reuters reported on February 16, 2011 that both Germany and Italy will pull out of the MEADS program, thus allaying any fears of leaving our allies high and dry.
There is no reason that the Pentagon can't cancel the program as soon as possible. Any attempt to continue funding for MEADS is not in the interest of the Department of Defense or taxpayers. Sec. Panetta must be given the necessary tools to defend the country and funding MEADS will only siphon away much-needed defense dollars to an unnecessary project.