August 17, 2009 | WebMemo on National Security and Defense
In recent months, much of Congress's attention has been focused on the missile defense program that would place 10 ground-based midcourse defense interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic. This particular focus is understandable; after all, the Obama Administration's unclear policy regarding this program has generated considerable public debate.
However, Congress should not lose sight of the fact that there is another vital missile defense/air defense cooperation program that deserves its attention and support: the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) development program, which is jointly funded by Germany, Italy, and the United States.
MEADS is being designed to counter tactical (short-range ) ballistic missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles, and aircraft. It will consist of:
The Germans are covering 25 percent of the cost of the program, while the Italians are covering 16.7 percent. The U.S. is responsible for the remaining 58.3 percent. This cost-sharing arrangement is based on a $3.4 billion contract that was signed by the three countries in 2004.
The Obama Administration requested a little more than $569 million in research, development, test, and evaluation funding for the program for fiscal year 2010. Generally speaking, Congress is on track to support the Administration's request. The question is whether the Obama Administration and Congress will support the program in the years after fiscal year 2010. Therefore, Congress should express its desire to see this program continue in fiscal year 2011 and beyond.
If the program continues, it is slated to begin flight tests in 2012. In fact, MEADS International, the joint venture executing the contract, announced on August 5 that the system had completed is component-level critical design reviews and that MEADS will begin system-level reviews.
The Obama Administration and Congress should sustain this program for the following reasons:
Congress Should Protect MEADS
Since the contract with Germany and Italy was signed in 2004, considerable progress has been made under the MEADS program. Nevertheless, the Obama Administration may be tempted to abandon the program in 2011. This decision would have negative consequences for U.S. alliance leadership in Europe, the ability to protect U.S. and allied ground forces in the field, and overall U.S. and alliance air and missile defense capabilities. On this basis, Congress should warn the Obama Administration against cancelling this very important defense program before the arguments of opponents of the program inside the Administration advance too far.
Baker Spring is F. M. Kirby Research Fellow National Security Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
U.S. Department of Defense, "Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request: Summary Justification," May 2009, pp. 3-36.
Press release, "MEADS Program Receives Hardware Design Approvals, Enters System-Level CDR," MEADS International, August 5, 2009.
David Kiefer, Deputy Programme Manager, NATO, presentation before
the Royal United Services Institute's Annual Missile Defense
Conference, May 28-29, 2009, at http://www.rusi.org/events/past/
ref:E4930106FE7696/info:public/infoID:E4A38B59475CF7/ (August 13, 2009).