WASHINGTON, April 9 Defense Secretary Chuck
Hagel has told his German and Italian counterparts the Pentagon
plans to spend about $310 million to help fund the final year of
development of Lockheed Martin's MEADS missile defense
system, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
The funding, included in the 2013 defense appropriation
passed by Congress last month, aims to help bring the program to
a close and collect the information learned so it can be used in
the future, Pentagon spokesman Maureen Schumann said.
The final year's development work includes an intercept
flight test against a ballistic missile target in late 2013.
"Funding for MEADS allows us to fulfill our commitment with
our allied participants, the German and Italian ministers of
defense, to bring the MEADS development program to a sound and
orderly conclusion," she said in a statement.
U.S. lawmakers initially blocked final U.S. funding for
MEADS when they passed a bill authorizing temporary military
spending late last year, arguing that they did not want to pay
any more for a program the Pentagon has decided not to use.
Top U.S. defense officials and their counterparts in Germany
and Italy had warned Congress that cutting off funding for the
program could cause problems between Washington and its allies,
who have spent a combined $4 billion on the program to date, and
would have triggered steep termination fees.
The funding was approved last year when Congress passed a
full-year bill to fund the government. The legislation included
$348 million for the Medium Extended Air and Missile Defense
System, or MEADS, designed as a successor to the Patriot missile
It also included $32.8 million for the Pentagon office
running the program, funding that will allow storing data from
the development and test program so participants will have a
database of design and performance information that can be used
in the future.
The funding is subject to a 10 percent cut because, under a
U.S. law aimed at curbing the government's deficit spending, the
Pentagon will actually provide about $310 billion for the final
year of development, officials said.
It also is not guaranteed. The U.S. Senate on Tuesday began
the process of bringing a bill to the floor that would withdraw
funding for the MEADS system.
Lockheed plans to keep working with Italy and Germany on the
three-nation missile defense program even after the United
States stops participating.
Lockheed says MEADS is significantly cheaper to operate than
the Patriot system built by its rival Raytheon Co, and
would provide significantly larger coverage areas.
Raytheon has continued to upgrade and modernize the Patriot
missile defense system, arguing that the changes have made the
system more efficient and less-labor intensive to use.