Americans for Tax Reform should look into MEADS

In response to Mattie Corrao’s “All eyes on Panetta to cut defense spending” (June 29): We encourage the Americans for Tax Reform to take a better look at the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). 

MEADS began design and development in 2004 and is ready to begin flight tests later this year. Unlike the Patriot missile program, MEADS provides full 360-degree protection and can defeat the emerging threat spectrum, so it is far from antiquated. A single MEADS battalion will defend up to eight times the coverage area of Patriot despite using fewer system assets. This allows for a substantial reduction in deployed personnel and equipment, with less demand for airlift, which significantly reduces overall system operation and support costs. There would be no need for MEADS if Patriot had any of these capabilities. 

MEADS’s cost savings are a big part of the story. It will cost the U.S. even more money to keep the 40-year-old Patriot system operational. In fact, the U.S. has spent more than $3 billion in Raytheon-announced contracts in the past six years to support, repair and upgrade U.S. Patriot systems. That’s twice what the U.S. has spent on MEADS development in total. In February, the Department of Defense publicly acknowledged that Patriot would need even further. significant investment in both sustainment and modernization over the next two decades. Just recently, a Raytheon executive recently admitted it would require two Patriot batteries to protect a fraction of the area a single MEADS battery could protect, at significantly lower operating and maintenance costs.

Under Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter recently wrote the Senate Armed Services Committee that funding the program would not only keep it on stable footing for Germany and Italy, but “provide the same options to the United States should air defense plans change.” Thus, the U.S. has not completely closed the door on buying MEADS or using its technologies to bolster existing air defense systems. 

The right answer is to ask the Government Accountability Office to assess what it will cost to upgrade, maintain and deploy Patriot versus procuring MEADS, to ensure the U.S. chooses the best and most cost-effective solution. Certainly, a respected taxpayer group would seek the same due diligence. 

From David F. Berganini, Jr., president of MEADS International, Dallas

Fair Elections Now Act simply would not work

Responding to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down portions of Arizona’s system of tax-financed political campaigns that stifled free speech, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) makes the case for adopting the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA), which would dole out hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to politicians (“Congress needs Fair Elections Now,” June 27). While she paints a rosy picture, the truth is these programs are failures and do not work as advertised.

FENA would primarily benefit incumbents as well as celebrities and those candidates favored by political insiders and well-organized interest groups. Raising the large number of small contributions required to qualify for a government handout is something that few challengers or outsiders will be able to do. Experience in both Arizona and Maine shows that candidates often turn to organized labor, right-to-life groups or other interest groups in order to qualify.

Pingree also tosses out the canard that fundraising just takes too much time away from other important work. If this is really a problem it is entirely self-imposed because of the low contribution limits Congress has imposed on itself. And it’s debatable just how much time is spent by members of Congress fundraising, as few even have competitive races that require significant fundraising efforts, and they have campaign staff to handle most of the fundraising duties. 

To cite just one recent example, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) did not seem to have a shortage of free time.

The congresswoman makes one insightful point, namely that the vast majority of her colleagues aren’t influenced by contributions, citing instead public perception of contributions as justifying her scheme to shovel taxpayer dollars into politicians’ campaign coffers. But New York City, which has had a program very similar to FENA for more than two decades, is hardly a beacon of clean government that inspires public confidence. More than a dozen current New York City Council members are embroiled in various scandals, suggesting that changing the way candidates are funded isn’t the path to better, more honest government.

She also ignores her own role in fostering the public’s suspicion of money in politics. While her tenure as head of Common Cause was far less unhinged than that of the current leadership, she has in the past served as a national spokesperson for the idea that campaign contributions are inherently corrupting. She even adds fuel to this fire by claiming at the end of her piece that as “wealthy special interests work to drown out the voice of Main Street America, the Fair Elections Now Act is necessary to ensure that our elections are truly of, by and for the people.”

The country does not need another failed campaign finance “reform’ imposed, especially one that would funnel tax dollars into the campaigns of politicians for no real public benefit.

 From Sean Parnell, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, Alexandria, Va.