June 28, 2012
Credit: Credit: Lockheed Martin
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his top weapons buyer warned U.S. lawmakers that failure to fund the final year of development work on a joint ground-based missile defense program with Italy and Germany could have serious diplomatic and financial consequences.
Panetta urged Senator Daniel Inouye, the chairman of Senate Appropriations Committee, to support $400.9 million in a final year of funding for the Medium Extended Air and Missile Defense System (MEADS) built by Lockheed Martin and its partners in Italy and Germany.
Three other committees have already blocked funding for the program, which is jointly financed by the United States, Italy and Germany, although their moves have drawn a veto threat by the White House.
MEADS was intended to replace the U.S. Army’s aging Patriot air and missile defense system, and has been in development for over a decade at a combined cost of over $4 billion.
Washington announced last year that it would stop funding the program after fiscal 2013, calling it unaffordable in the current budget climate. Some lawmakers like Senator John McCain have argued spending on the program should stop immediately.
Panetta told Inouye in a letter dated June 26 that completing development of the MEADS program would allow all three countries to benefit from their collective investment, while a U.S. pullout would be “viewed by our allies as reneging on our promises.”
He said it could also negatively affect the willingness of U.S. allies to join future cooperative projects, and would likely lead to a dispute with Italy and Germany.
Frank Kendall, defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, told Senator Richard Shelby, a strong supporter of the MEADS program, in a separate letter, that U.S. contracts with Italy and Germany would have to be terminated or significantly restructured if the funding was cut off.