A MEADS launcher on display. (File photo)
ROME — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has urged the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee to support funding to conclude the test phase of the tri-nation Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) anti-missile program.
In a letter to Sen. Daniel Inouye dated June 26, Panetta encouraged Inouye to “strongly support” the provision of $400.9 million in fiscal 2013 to allow “completion of the MEADS development phase as it is currently planned.”
The U.S. previously opted against purchasing the system it developed with Germany and Italy but had agreed to fund the program through to a “Proof of Concept” phase in 2014, which would allow technologies to be harvested.
The National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, however, required termination of MEADS before then, with no funding for 2013.
Three congressional committees have turned down the Obama administration’s request for $400 million to complete testing, but the Senate Appropriations Committee is yet to vote on the measure.
In his letter to the chairman, which has been seen by Defense News, Panetta wrote that wrapping up testing would allow the MEADS partners “to obtain benefit from our collective program investment to date and will bring the development program to an orderly conclusion. Failure to fund our FY 2013 commitment will be viewed by our allies as reneging on our promises.”
Panetta wrote that abandoning MEADS, which has been led by Lockheed Martin, would undermine the commitment made by NATO to missile defense at its May summit in Chicago.
“The European Phased Adaptive Approach will be a major contributor to NATO missile defense and is designed to protect the U.S. homeland, U.S. deployed forces, and our allies against the increasing threats posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles. Where ballistic missile defense was once a controversial subject within the Alliance, we have reached consensus to operationalize this capability,” he wrote. Halting MEADS funding, he added, “would diminish the consensus reached in Chicago.”
After making a commitment to Italy and Germany, “two of our closest allies,” to develop MEADS, failure to do so could “negatively affect allied willingness to join future cooperative endeavors,” he wrote, and “likely would lead to a dispute with Germany and Italy, both of which have indicated that they would assert that the United States has unilaterally withdrawn from the MOU.
“On the other hand, full funding of the final year of the MEADS Proof of Concept would ensure that the United States receives a return on its 8-year investment in the form of a data archival package for future potential use on other U.S. air missile defense improvements.”