The final weeks of 2013 gave way to a flurry of activity from Congress as they threw together compromise legislation that found its way to the floor before many folks had time to look over the details of the bills. This was done all for the sake of getting things done before the holidays. One such piece of compromise legislation was the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is used to set the budget of the Department of Defense. Though the House had originally passed a comprehensive defense appropriations bill last summer, the Senate bill was delayed and eventually scrapped altogether in favor of a compromise bill with limited process for debate all in the hopes that it would pass before elected officials adjourned for the remainder of the year. Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been outspoken in advocating for a reduced budget at the Pentagon that would allow for responsible cuts that would eliminate waste while preserving the national security interests of the United States.
A specific program that TPA has long-identified as outdated and wasteful is the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), otherwise known as the ‘Missile to Nowhere’. The program, which began in 2005, saw it’s funding prohibited in 2011, 2012, and in 2013 by way of the NDAA; and while President Obama kept the program out of the Pentagon’s budget, that didn’t stop Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel from shelling out $380 million in continuing resolution (CR) funds in 2013 to continue funding design and development of MEADS. Now, just in time to start the new year, there looks to be a major victory for taxpayers as funding for the aptly named “Missile to Nowhere” was left out of the defense appropriations bill signed by President Obama just after Christmas. Writing for Defense Tech, Brendan McGarry detailed the developments:
“The U.S. plans to stop funding a missile defense system made by Lockheed Martin Corp… Lawmakers agreed to prohibit using any funds for the so-called Medium Extended Air Defense System, known in military parlance as MEADS, as part of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act… The legislation, which sets military policy and spending targets for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1., was signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama while he was vacationing in Hawaii… The final version of the bill notably didn’t include language supported by the Republican-led House of Representatives instructing the Army to look for opportunities to use the technology in other systems.”
TPA is pleased to see that the taxpayer-subsidization of the program may be coming to an end now that this year’s defense authorization legislation has been signed into law, sans funding for MEADS. Victories like this don’t come along very often and with the appetite for spending on both sides of the aisle, it has become almost impossible to get spending reduction into any bill dealing with short-term or long-term appropriations. Despite the repeated problems that have plagued MEADS it has been a particularly difficult program to halt. Michael J. Del Rosso of the Claremont Institute summed up the quandary this way in Real Clear Defense last month:
“Despite using three MSE missiles that cost more than $15 million, the November test did not demonstrate anything new. Put simply, it was a marketing event with media, marketeers, and MEADS stakeholders outnumbering warfighters and observers experienced in air and missile defense. The event was just another attempt to convince Congress and the Pentagon to continue spending scarce resources for a system that cannot even meet today’s requirements… So how does MEADS continue to live on, despite repeated efforts to end the program? Think about it. The Army doesn’t want it. Neither does the Pentagon. Taxpayer groups don’t like it. Democrats and Republicans are on record opposing it, and non-partisan groups have criticized it. Nevertheless, MEADS proves very hard to kill.”
TPA is mindful that the nation and our citizens must be protected and that the Department of Defense must be given the necessary resources to ensure such protection is provided. However, the nation’s military capabilities are always better served when efficiency is achieved and waste, fraud, and abuse are eliminated. MEADS is just one of many programs that the Pentagon could do without and agency brass must work with Congress, and the Obama Administration to specify the other outdated and wasteful programs that are costing taxpayers billions annually.
Though it has been something said before, it is worth repeating: The U.S. has the best trained, most experienced and most capable military in the world. Eliminating wasteful Pentagon spending only makes us stronger.