Pentagon Assigns $380 Million to Controversial Air Defense System

A Medium Extended Air Defense System missile is tested in November at White Sands.

A Medium Extended Air Defense System missile is tested in November at White Sands. Defense Department

The department is cooperating with Germany and Italy on the Medium Extended Air Defense System.

The Defense Department intends to allocate $380 million in funding provided by a congressional stopgap spending measure to the divisive Medium Extended Air Defense System, The Hill reported on Tuesday.

"The appropriated amount, less the sequester reduction, will be the final U.S. contribution to the MEADS program," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrote in a Monday letter to the Italian and German defense chiefs. The United States, Germany, and Italy have been jointly financing the battlefield antimissile technology program.

Lawmakers made a point in the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act of forbidding any further Pentagon funding of the program. Many in Congress viewed it a waste of money considering the Defense Department does not intend to purchase any units when they become available sometime later in the decade.

"It's outrageous that the administration is 'pleased' to provide this funding, especially at the same time the Defense Department has been grounding combat aircraft as a result of sequestration," Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said in provided comments to The Hill.

House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing on Tuesday said the Defense Department was legally out of bounds if it used fiscal 2013 continuing resolution funding for anything other than "termination costs" for the MEADS program.

The Defense Department counters that the legislative measure, which provided federal funding through Sept. 30, "effectively superseded" the authorization mandate against MEADS. Pentagon spokeswoman Maureen Schumann said the CR financing would be used to pay for a live intercept trial toward the end of the year and then ending U.S. participation in the project.