Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., speaks at an event in 2012 in Washington, D.C. Sanchez said she plans on killing a controversial missile defense program. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — A feisty US House Armed Services Committee Democrat put supporters of a controversial missile defense program on notice Wednesday, saying bluntly she plans to finally kill it.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California, during an HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee mark-up of its portion of fiscal 2014 Pentagon policy legislation, slammed the troubled Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program and said she’s readying a measure to terminate it.
Sanchez told subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., that she is “really alarmed” that Pentagon officials continually “ignore” the wishes of lawmakers from both political parties who want to kill the trination program.
The joint venture by the US, Germany and Italy has experienced technical issues so severe that the Pentagon has no intention to buy even one model of the missile interceptor system. But Pentagon brass say they would like to own the technology for future use, adding that termination costs would be greater than simply finishing existing program plans.
Sanchez said Wednesday that in an age of deficit-reduction and federal spending cuts, a program like MEADS, which she tongue-in-cheekly said is “mildly underperforming,” simply is unaffordable.
“We have spent $2 billion since I’ve been [in Congress] on MEADS trying to get it together,” Sanchez said.
“The argument to spend an additional $381 million to avoid termination fees … is a little alarming at a time when … the [House] Appropriations Committee is talking about cutting [the departments of] Health and Human Services, and Education.”
She charged the Pentagon with acting “against the will of the committee,” adding the matter should be viewed by other lawmakers as “a key issue in a time of dollars and cents.”
Sanchez withdrew an amendment to the subcommittee’s portion of the 2014 national defense authorization act (NDAA) aimed at MEADS. But she told Rogers she “most likely” will introduce it anew on June 5 when the full HASC will mark up the complete NDAA.
Rogers called himself a supporter of finishing the MEADS program, and sharply said Sanchez’s amendment “would waste this committee’s time.”
For her part, Sanchez advised her HASC colleagues to ponder this about the MEADS program’s costs before the June 5 session: “Is it time to say, ‘this is enough?’”