But that excuse is nothing but a red herring. According to recent media coverage, Sen. Ayotte has Pentagon documentation in hand that would absolve the U.S. of paying any termination fees. The senator’s office proclaimed that U.S. funding commitments are subject to the “availability of appropriated funds.” If Congress doesn’t appropriate funds for MEADS, the U.S. can withdraw from the program without penalty. That is what makes the House’s decision to fund MEADS to the tune of $380 even more curious.
MEADS can and should be axed because the U.S. and its allies already employ a missile defense program that does the job at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers. In an ironic twist, it is the Patriot Missile System, the very program MEADS was conceived to replace.
In my deployment to Iraq in 2004, I saw firsthand how effective our Patriot had been during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Patriot brought down nine Iraqi tactical ballistic missiles in nine attempts. The system singlehandedly denied the Iraqi military the use of ballistic missiles against our Army and Marine units and forced the Iraqis to change strategies, mid-battle.
Importantly, Patriot is still on the front lines today, thanks to ongoing modernization investments. Due to the demonstrated success of the Patriot in actual combat situations, Patriot now has 12 international partner nations that cost share development and production. Since the Patriot is actually deployed to worldwide locations, system support costs have been reduced and are shared among all 12 participating partners. Yet, while House appropriators earmarked money to terminate MEADS, they actually cut some funding for Patriot modernization.
In this time of fiscal austerity, Washington must get this simple but important message: Stick with what works, and cut what doesn’t. Hopefully the U.S. Senate gets that message when it works on its own spending bill this week. In the case of MEADS and Patriot, the correct course of action – for our warfighter and the taxpayer – is abundantly and patriotically clear.
Wassom is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel.