The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

A Bittersweet Victory for CAGW

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact

Ronald Reagan once said, “Government programs, once launched, never disappear.  Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!”  A corollary to that notion is that in the rare circumstance when a government agency or program disappears, it does not necessarily die.  Such is the case with the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a missile defense system long opposed by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

In April 2013, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) praised the Obama Administration for not requesting MEADS funding in its fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request.  This was consistent with the administration’s promise to cease funding following the two-year proof of concept phase of the project that concluded after FY 2013.  The House and Senate Appropriations Committees followed suit, withholding funding for MEADS in their respective versions of the FY 2014 Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations Bill released over the summer.  With the President, the Pentagon, and most of Congress in agreement, the program seemed to be dead in the water.

However, on November 6, 2013, MEADS underwent a “graduation exercise,” testing the program’s ability to intercept missiles.  With no plans to continue development or fund procurement of the system, it is difficult to understand why the DOD went through with the test, especially when the U.S. is on the hook for the majority of the cost.

The test was apparently performed as a showpiece for the system contractor, Lockheed Martin, and the U.S.’ program allies, Germany and Italy, to shop for potential contributors to continue development and procurement of MEADS.  Poland has previously been courted as a replacement for the U.S., and a MEADS development director for Lockheed Martin stated that Washington’s exit “provides the opportunity for Poland to literally jump to the front of the line.”  In an op-ed appearing in Defense News on September 3, 2013, former Army Acting Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Dean Popps criticized any further investment in MEADS, and claimed the test is “largely to assuage our partner nations hoping to fill the void left by the United States.”

Intended as a replacement for the Patriot missile system, MEADS has been dogged by cost overruns of nearly $2 billion and is a decade behind schedule.  A March 9, 2010 Washington Post report quoted a U.S. Army memo asserting that the program “will not meet U.S. requirements or address the current and emerging threat without extensive and costly modifications,” and Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has called the program “a waste of money.”   A March 2011 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report recommended terminating MEADS in favor of continuing production of the Patriot. CBO cited an internal Army memo that urged “harvesting MEADS technologies and improving the Patriot program it was designed to replace.”  The Government Accountability Office’s annual report on DOD weapons programs in March 2011 noted problems with MEADS, including that it “is at risk of not meeting several technical performance measures….”  CCAGW laid out the full case against MEADS in its microsite,

For several years, DOD officials stated that cancelling the program was cost-prohibitive without agreement from the U.S.’ partners Germany and Italy because of high unilateral termination costs.  However, a confidential DOD report to Congress obtained by CAGW concluded that the U.S. can withdraw from the contract without committing additional money or paying termination fees. 

With allies in powerful congressional committees, MEADS has proven challenging to finish off.  In fact, earlier this summer, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) compared the program to Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, stating “You think [MEADS] is dead and it keeps popping out of the bathtub again.”

Congress will get one last bite at the apple during the appropriations process to replace the current continuing resolution that expires on January 15, 2014.  Without a doubt, some members will push for additional funding for MEADS, and likely cite its November test as justification.  However, with the country staring down a deep fiscal morass (and the DOD facing automatic cuts via sequestration), the time has come for them to permanently ground the missile.


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