The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been a stalwart proponent of much needed fiscal discipline when it comes to spending at the Department of Defense (DoD). And, in the aftermath of Budget Control Act of 2011 which resulted in sequestration and billions of dollars being cut from defense spending, TPA was pleased see hope that some sacred cow programs at DoD like the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), the Littoral Combat Ship, SM-3 Block II-B missile, the F-35 fighter, refurbishment of M-1 tanks, and the Virginia class submarine may finally be seeing the end of the road.
One program in particular that TPA has been a vocal opponent of is MEADS, an international missile-to-missile intercept program with the U.S. as the lead country funding the program. MEADS, which started in 2005, is a program so wasteful and so bad, that even the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) prohibited the funding of the program in 2011, 2012, and in 2013. President Obama kept the program out of the Pentagon’s budget, but that didn’t stop Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel from spending $380 million in continuing resolution (CR) funds this year to continue funding design and development of the program. Sec. Hagel and the DoD may be the only ones proud to even admit it, when they announced in a letter sent to the German and Italian Defense ministers, that, “the U.S. would provide the money in 2013 for development of the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a joint venture between the three countries.” Though the program was not budgeted for production back in 2011, it still continues to live on and cost taxpayers money.
Writing for Defense News on September 3, 2013, Dean G. Popps, a former US Army acquisition executive and former acting assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, notes, “For complex international reasons, some involving the NATO fight in Afghanistan and the need to bolster Europe’s economy, the program lives on in a perpetual state of design and development, with no real buyers in sight. To some it gives the appearance of a high-tech jobs program for foreign partner nations rather than a system that will be fielded in earnest.”
Popps continues by saying that, “Hagel has testified to Congress that sequestration cuts from the Pentagon’s budget next year would affect training, infrastructure and living conditions around the world. Already, the Pentagon has furloughed 650,000 civilian workers, each of whom is taking an unpaid day off every two weeks until the end of September. These workers are essential to supporting our warfighters, at home and abroad, and these cuts are affecting the military’s readiness, operations and morale. In the wake of these developments, how can we justify paying to test MEADS? The answer is that we can’t. We have other systems that can meet military requirements, and Congress needs to demand that the Defense Department cease all future spending on MEADS.”
Unfortunately, there are those in Congress who want to continue to waste money on programs like MEADS and are using any tactic they can to restore cuts to defense as a result of sequestration. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) appears to be using the current debate about military intervention in Syria to argue that sequestration cuts hitting the Pentagon must be undone:
“I cannot guarantee that we can get votes for it, but I know that a lot of people have the same concerns that I do. And if we can fix this, it may help some people with their votes.”—Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) on CNN’s “State of the Union” 9/8/2013
There really is no other way to describe how disappointing it is to see an elected official use an international crisis to negotiate his way into getting a few billion dollars in wasteful spending on programs that don’t work, and that even the President doesn’t want in some cases. While Rep. McKeon is correct when it comes to identifying the pressure our military faces at this point in time operating with a smaller budget, context must be taken into account, as national security consultant Mike Ostrolenk pointed out last week.
The fact remains that programs, including MEADS, are a waste that taxpayers simply cannot continue to subsidize and sequestration must be kept in tact.
TPA understands that the country needs to be protected and the DoD must be given the resources to do so. The nation’s military capabilities are best served when efficiency is applied and waste, fraud, and abuse are driven out of the system. The sequester proved not to be the end of humanity, and the larger cuts beginning next month will have an impact that will be more positive when it comes to reducing our deficit. Federal agencies, Congress, and the White House should all be working together to indentify even more cuts that would have positive results on deficit reduction without harming our military readiness.
The U.S. has the best trained, most experienced and most capable military in the world. Eliminating wasteful Pentagon spending only makes us stronger.