- The Washington Times
Wednesday, June 8, 2011


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has an important question to answer during her Washington visit: whether Germany is going to continue funding its share of 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, but Americans are shouldering more than 50 percent of the cost. Even though the Army has opposed the project, Congress allocated an additional $800 million in February and, last week, voted to further continue funding the project.

However, it has beenreported that both Germany and Italy are looking to pull out of the MEADS program, leaving America to foot the bill for the entire system. Even if they do continue to fund the project through the development stage, both partner nations have announced they have no intention of purchasing the final product.

The reluctance to commit to the program is understandable - MEADS is expensive. In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent this year alone, the Pentagon has already sunk $1.5 billion into the program. Total development will cost $2.8 billion and full production will cost more than $25 billion. MEADS has also experienced significant production delays. Initial construction was supposed to start in 2007, but was then pushed back to 2014, and now isnt expected to begin until 2018. 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, but is instead a battle between playing politics and using common sense. In an internal memo sent last week, the Army concluded that “The system will not meet U.S. requirements or address the current and emerging threat without extensive and costly modifications.” So, if the system doesn’t work and won’t keep the Army or citizens any safer, why are we still paying for it?

Pentagon officials claim they must continue funding the program because it would be too costly to terminate MEADS. But with more than an estimated $1 billion still needed in the development phase, there is a large amount of money to be saved by immediately shelving the project. The Pentagon has also argued that the “benefits to the partner nations of continuing a proof of concept development” outweigh the program’s costs. However, as both Germany and Italy seem as interested as we are in the finished missile project - that is, not at all - why is the United States continuing to throw away billions of taxpayer dollars on developing a system that no one wants to buy?

As soon as Leon Panetta is confirmed as secretary of defense he will have to make some tough choices in order to balance a strong defense with necessary budget cuts. MEADS is a program that Mr. Panetta could immediately get rid of in order to trim the budget without sacrificing safety. With America’s credit cards maxed out and the national debt surpassing $14.3 trillion, our country cannot afford to give precious defense funds away without receiving anything in return.

The recent vote to keep funding MEADS is not in the interest of the Department of Defense or the taxpayers whose hard-earned money is being used for the program. In fact, keeping MEADS alive will leave the United States holding a bill for billions of dollars that we simply cannot afford to pay. Mr. Panetta must be given the necessary tools to defend the country and continuing MEADS will only siphon away much-needed defense dollars without making Americans any safer.

David Williams is president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (protectingtaxpayers.org).

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