The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

End of the Line for MEADS

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


The Obama Administration may have just hammered the last nail into the coffin of the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). As part of his fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget, President Obama refused to add money for the troubled program, keeping with his promise to cease funding following a two year proof of concept phase that concluded after FY 2013. 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 Department of Defense (DOD) weapons programs in March 2011 noted problems with MEADS, including that it “is at risk of not meeting several technical performance measures….”  The DOD does not have any plans to purchase the system.  The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste laid out the full case against MEADS in its microsite, MisguidedMissile.org. For several years, officials at the DOD stated that cancelling the program was 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 Citizens Against Government Waste concludes that the U.S. can withdraw from the contract without committing additional money or paying termination fees. Barring congressional action, the $380 million in last month’s continuing resolution funding the federal government for the balance of FY 2013 will represent MEADS’ final allowance.  According to a Pentagon spokeswoman, this funding will be used to complete the archival of data for potential later use by the three partner nations. Of course, just like all good horror movies, costly defense acquisition programs rarely stay dead for long, even with the most glaring of deficiencies.  Congress will get one last bite at the apple during this summer’s appropriations process.  Three out of four relevant congressional committees have zeroed funding for MEADS in the past.  Predictably, the lone holdout is the Senate Appropriations Committee, whose old guard appropriators have never been easily persuaded to cut waste.  However, with the country staring down a deep fiscal morass (and the DOD facing automatic cuts via sequestration), the time is now for them to stand down.

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