Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Germany, Italy want U.S. support for MEADS

Germany and Italy have asked U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to continue supporting the Medium Extended Air Defense System, endangered because of budget pressures.
"We know he's been contacted by the German and Italian counterparts, asking for support for MEADS," Mike Trotsky, vice president of Air and Missile Defense Systems at Lockheed Martin, was quoted as saying by Defensenews.com. "They've already garnered support for MEADS in their respective countries and have the funding available, so we're waiting for Secretary Gates to make his decision and we're assuming he'll make a decision to continue."

Funded by the United States, Germany and Italy, MEADS is aimed at developing a replacement for the aging Patriot and Nike Hercules missile systems. The program is one of several that may be cut due to growing pressure on defense budgets.

The U.S. Congress has withheld 75 percent of money earmarked for MEADS in the 2011 budget until the Pentagon provides reasons why it should continue.

MEADS' total cost will reach $16.5 billion, the Government Accountability Office in March estimated in March; finishing the project will take $600 million in additional funding, Trotsky said. Washington funds 58 percent of the program, with Germany and Italy contributing 25 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

"Given the significant cost increases and schedule delays in the development program, there is considerable uncertainty in the future of the program," House and Senate lawmakers wrote in a joint statement regarding the money freeze. "It would not be prudent to spend fiscal year 2011 funds on a program unless the department decides to proceed in a fiscally sound manner in agreement with our allies."

Trotsky said he was confident that MEADS will survive.

"Assuming they make a decision to continue with the program, we don't see an interruption in funding," Defensenews.com quoted Trotsky as saying. "I don't think there's any doubt that the program is one that is part of Gates' decision, so we're waiting to hear what he's going to do."

The program's industrial consortium, Meads International, has headquartera in Orlando, Fla. It's a joint venture between Lockheed, Germany's Lfk-Lenkflugkoerpersysteme and MBDA, the world's second-largest missile maker owned by BAE Systems, European Aeronautic, Defense and Space Co. and Finmeccanica from Italy.

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