SHAHEEN CONTINUES CALL TO CUT FUNDING FOR WASTEFUL WEAPONS PROGRAM

March 22, 2012

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined a bipartisan group of senators yesterday in a letter to Senate military spending leaders urging them to cut funding for development of an air defense system the U.S. military no longer intends to buy.  The letter calls on the heads of the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees to reject a $400.9 million Department of Defense request in President Obama’s 2013 budget for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program.  The Army has already spent more than $2 billion on the program and decided not to purchase it after it failed to live up to expectations in the testing stage.

“With our country facing a $15.5 trillion national debt and the Pentagon facing $487 billion in cuts, we cannot afford to let one cent of our national security spending go to waste,” Shaheen said.  “This money could fund a weapons system that would actually be used to keep our nation safe or it could be used to pay down our national debt.  But wasting it on a defense program our troops will never use just doesn’t make sense.”

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and chair of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, Shaheen has been active in calling for an end to MEADS—a NATO-managed, joint program with Germany and Italy.  Shaheen worked with her Armed Services colleagues to include language in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would withhold more than $400 million in MEADS funding.  Last April, Shaheen also sent a letter to then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urging him to put an end to Pentagon spending on the program. 

The full text of the Senators’ letter to the heads of the Armed Services and Appropriations Committee is below.

Dear Chairman Levin, Chairman Inouye, Ranking Member McCain, and Vice Chairman Cochran:
 
We write to express our opposition to the President's $400.9 million request in the President's fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget proposal for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS).   
 
Our nation confronts a $15.5 trillion national debt, and the Department of Defense is being forced to cut $487 billion from its budget over the next nine years.  The Department of Defense has stated that it does not intend to procure MEADS.  Facing a serious fiscal crisis, we cannot afford to spend a single additional dollar on a weapons system such as MEADS that our warfighters will never use.     
 
For years, MEADS has been plagued by consistent scheduling delays, cost overruns, as well as an overall failure to deliver results.  As stated in a February 2011 Office of the Secretary of Defense document, the program's poor performance "might ordinarily make it a candidate for cancellation."  However, the international component of the MEADS program, as well as a desire by some to continue the program in a "proof of concept" phase, has resulted in the expenditure of hundreds of millions of additional dollars on a system that should have been canceled years ago.  As the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, testified at a House Armed Services Committee hearing last year, the Army has already invested over $2 billion into a failed system that will never be procured by our military.  Reflecting this troubled MEADS history, section 235 of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) states that not more than 25% of the funds authorized can be obligated or expended until the Secretary of Defense submits to Congress a plan to use such funds as "final obligations."    
 
The 2012 NDAA clearly states that this year's funds would be the "final obligations" of funding for MEADS.  We strongly urge you not to allow the Department of Defense to act in contravention of the law and to therefore not allocate any additional funding for MEADS.  We hope that both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee will reiterate the requirement for the Department of Defense to provide a plan for the use of the FY 2012 MEADS funding as a final obligation. 

We note that this plan must include a description of how the Secretary of Defense plans to address the future air and missile defense requirements, including a summary of activities, the cost estimate, and the funding profile necessary to sustain and upgrade the Patriot air and missile defense system.  While the Pentagon has continued to waste tax dollars on MEADS, the Department of Defense has failed to fully modernize its Patriot Program.  We are concerned that the Army has not yet presented to Congress a prioritized plan to support the long-term requirements for modernizing the Patriot system, which will be operational at least through 2042.  The President's $400 million request for MEADS would be better spent paying down our national debt or fully upgrading the Patriot system.

In the midst of our nation's fiscal crisis, we must ensure every dollar invested in defense supports our warfighters and improves military readiness.  Thank you for your important work and leadership on the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations committees.   We look forward to working together to curb wasteful spending while ensuring that we maintain a strong national defense.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte

U.S. Senator Mark Begich

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen

U.S. Senator Scott Brown

U.S. Senator David Vitter

U.S. Senator Mark Udall

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill

Press Contact

Press Office, (202) 224-5553