Contradiction of Funding the MEADS Missile System

Contradiction of Funding the MEADS Missile System

– This column is written by Dean G. Popps, the former Army acquisition executive and acting assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition Logistics and Technology during both the Bush and Obama administrations. He also served ex officio on the U.S. Army Board of Directors to the Missile Defense Agency. 

The stalemate in the U.S. Senate over the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) exemplifies our nation’s struggle to adjust to a new normal while attempting to balance our defense and domestic agendas. In this hyper-conscious budget environment, leaders in the Pentagon and Capitol Hill have the unenviable task of meeting ever-increasing demands on our military with far fewer federal dollars.

That’s what makes the contradiction of continued funding of a system, described by a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee as a “missile to nowhere,” baffling to any common sense observer.


Let’s rewind. The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) is a joint program started in 1995 in a pre-September 11 and pre-European Union debt crisis environment. The program’s partners include the United States, Italy and Germany. The nominal notion was to build a follow-on air defense system to the hugely successful Patriot system, still in use today.

Our country’s missile defense relies heavily on strategically located U.S. Army Air and Missile Defense units deployed with the Patriot as well as the U.S. Navy’s AEGIS system at sea.  Both of these systems have worked long and well, and the programs have undergone multiple upgrades and improvements along the way, such as the PAC-3, which redesigned the software and radar to greatly increase the system’s discrimination and tracking abilities, among other upgrades.

Unfortunately, MEADS, an earlier attempt to “share the burden” among allies, is nearing a 20-year, $2 billion dollar run, and is not in final production or deployment. So, it’s become an expensive, experimental, unproven burden to the U.S.. pocketbook that sits on the shelf, and — with each passing and expensive year — becomes less and less likely to ever be fielded or used. The cold realities since 1995 have changed, and so has the world we live in.

Interestingly, MEADS does continue to provide high-tech employment for Italians and Germans, even though those countries together contribute only about 40 percent of the costs. Critics have called this arrangement a “European jobs program,” and they have a point.

Recently, a costly “proof of concept” live fire at White Sands Missile Range proved little other than three very expensive missiles can intercept the same three threats that current in-use systems can with less cost.  This did not constitute a “test” in any sense of the word, nor was it billed as such.  But advancing our capability against complex threats does not seem to be an outcome of this event.

A last and important fact to this narrative is important to note. The U.S. Army has said “no” to buying MEADS.  It’s unaffordable and doesn’t meet the Army’s changed requirements, they say. The Army and the DOD have said they are committed to ending the relationship, and the Army maintains that there is little or nothing to harvest from the program.  Yet despite pleas from military requirements and budget officials, the money continues to flow.

Somehow, MEADS has nine costly lives.  Perhaps, it is some misguided attempt to be a good NATO partner, or perhaps it has to do with the partners in the coalition fight in Afghanistan. Or most certainly it has to do with the pull created by the program’s “friends” on Capitol Hill.

In any case, in this environment and at this time in history, many of us are calling for the administration’s political will and courage at all levels — from the White House, to the National Security Advisor and staff, to the Office of Management and Budget, and to the Secretary of Defense in consultation with the Secretary of State — to put an end to an endeavor using precious tax dollars at a time in which it is no longer needed, wanted or explainable to the citizens of this country.

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MEADS was more expensive to cancel than to complete through development. The bean counters that wrote the contract knew what they were doing.

So MEADS which is in many respects an evolution of the Patriot SAM doesn’t meet Army requirements yet upgrades to Patriot do? Somebody explain that.

MEADS is unnecessary because the Patriot system is ALREADY getting the PAC-3 MSE missile.

the current patriot system received a lot of the upgrades it has today because of the meads r+d process. I wont go into what those are but patriot wouldn’t be what it is today without it.
Our allies paid for 40% of the r+d that got us those upgrades too, and now that their AMD system is almost done people are wanting to bail out on it. since they’ve got what they wanted for their own selfish selves.
Keep in mind these two countries are about the size of Texas put together, so this has been a extraordinary effort on their part.
They arent just partners either these are long time customers of the US, and more importantly they are staunch military allies.
60–80% of american troops in Europe are stationed in these 2 countries and the MEADS AMD they are procuring will be sheilding your forces as well as their own.

The MEADS system meets TBM and ABT threat requirements that the Patriot system does not. Someone is intentionally withholding the whole story.

The Patriot system is already getting the PAC-3 MSE missile. MEADS is unnecessary for the US Army.

What you meant to say was, “There are advantages to MEADS, foremost being easier integration with other SAM systems (something the US has little need for currently) and simultaneous 360 coverage (which is not really important to the US either). So while there are some increased capabilities for MEADS over Patriot, for the US there is no significant increase in capability that would justify spending the money to procure it”. Bottom line is, a process improved Patriot is good enough, and good enough is, well, good enough. Better uses for limited funds.

We don’t know what requirements MEADS meets, it hasn’t been tested. NAMEADSMA told the Pentagon in 2010 they needed $3 billion more to complete development 10 years late in 2018. Don’t confuse claims with facts.

Italy isn’t serious. They already bought SAMP/T.

who exactly are bean counters? i suspect they do not write contracts.

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