Complaints About MEADS Have International Flavor

After failing to defund the controversial Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) in the Pentagon’s 2013 budget, the House Armed Services Committee is trying to scuttle the missile defense program again this year in its version of the 2014 Pentagon budget bill passed on June 5.

While the Senate reversed the House’s desire to slash the $400 million from the 2013 budget to fund the last year of development for multinational program, the House this year not only zeroed out funding, but demands that the Secretary of Defense and the Army inform them about what technologies the US can harvest form the incomplete program, which has already cost US taxpayers $2.4 billion.

MEADS, of course, has been a joint project led by MEADS International, which is a multinational joint venture between MBDA in Italy and Germany, and Lockheed Martin in the United States.

The Army has said that while it has no plans to keep funding the program long enough to actually make it operational, it still wants to fund the previously planned testing schedule in order to possibly harvest technologies, and not break its contract with key allies and partners Italy and Germany. In its defense, MEADS did successfully conduct radar tests this past April, and remains on track to perform more extensive testing later this year at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

All that said, we’ve heard a lot of strum and drang on this side of the pond about the program, but not much from the European media about how they look at the system. A few days ago however, a tipster sent along a transcript from the June 4 edition of the German news program FAKT, and much of what German politicians say about MEADS sounds pretty familiar.

Reporter Markus Meyer spoke to professor Götz Neuneck of the Hamburg Institute for Security Politics, who complained that the test results so far “are downright meager. The tests are experiments and the functional capability of missile defense in general is not demonstrated.”
The story also quotes German Parliamentarian Tobias Lindner of the Green Party, who had supported the MEADS program in the past but now says that “the project has been a mistake. This is yet another example that on one hand one may still find a capacity to be meaningful, but then on the other hand, during execution, it is getting snagged, more expensive and delayed and that in the end such projects reduce themselves to absurdity.”
Meyer adds that since the United States has been saying for several years that it would not finish the program, “an exit in agreement with the USA could have saved since 2011 a minimum of 300 million Euros to the German tax payers.”

Toward the end, politician Tobias Lindner adds a little nugget that would look familiar to folks no matter what language they speak, or what problematic defense program they’re talking about:

“We must, I believe, look very closely at how procurement projects are managed and controlled within the Defense Ministry. With this series of failed projects one sees already that it is getting ever more expensive. Another point is: Often times at the Bundswehr procurement politics is mistaken for German industry politics. Also this makes it often more expensive.”


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Paul McLeary

McLeary covers national security policies at the White House, Pentagon, the Hill, and State Department.
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