WASHINGTON — Amid a lack of congressional support, the Army is hoping for fiscal 2017 funding for the troubled Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, according to the commanding general of Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
Convincing Congress to fund the program will likely be an uphill battle. The Army recently asked Congress to spend another $27.2 million to keep the JLENS System's three-year operational exercise on track but was quickly shot down by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Congress cut most of JLENS' funding in 2016.
The Raytheon-made tethered aerostat, that which is capable of tracking swarming boats and vehicles, as well as detecting and tracking cruise-missile threats, broke free from its tether in Maryland and floated into Pennsylvania, dragging its mooring line and causing several power outages before it landed in a field. The embarrassing incident last fall has caught much flak from lawmakers.
"We understand Congress’ decision for FY-16 so we, the Department of Defense, is working very closely with Congress to make sure that we provide the necessary information," Lt. Gen. David Mann told reporters Tuesday at the Pentagon.
"I don't think anybody takes issue with the fact that we need to do a better job with addressing the cruise-missile threat," Mann said, adding that JLENS provides the ability to track these types of threats and "we need to further test out and complete the assessment" meant to decide the system's fate.
"The onus is on us, quite frankly, to continue to engage Congress and to provide them with the data to make the case as to why it's important to support this effort," Mann added.
The lack of funding in 2016 means the Army has to store the system this year, but the general said "hopefully" the Army can "make the case to Congress in FY-17 to reinvest in the program."
The lack of funding in 2016 will "obviously" delay the planned three-year assessment, he said.