News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Thursday, July 22, 1999 - 2:00 p.m.
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

Q: Can I ask a question about the MEADS program?

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

Q: I don't have the report, but I think Jamie may have it there. There's a quote from what's described as an internal Pentagon document, and I'm paraphrasing, but it essentially says we understand that Congress has killed this program, and then the Pentagon went on to spend a couple of million dollars to keep the program alive.

What was the contradictory instruction there and how can you explain, if at all, that line? Or was it taken out of context?

Mr. Bacon: My understanding with the MEADS program was that... There was an issue as to whether the program was a clear, coherent program that had a chance of success. The Congress basically said to the Defense Department, look, either pump this program up, make it a better program, make some changes in the program, or kill it. And we came back with a revised program that protected what we thought were the most important parts of the program and substituted...

The MEADS is an air defense system, it stands for Medium Extended Air Defense program that we're building with our allies that provides extended range air defense, and it was to use a new rocket, a new missile. We recast the program to build it around a Patriot 3 missile, saving a lot of money by not proposing to go ahead with an entirely new "built from scratch" missile, but building it around a missile that we're in the process of fielding now. We did this in part to save time and to save money and to build the program around a known quantity. There are other parts of the program, radars, etc., that have been or we believe will be quite successful.

This is a complex program where I think there was conflicting guidance between the Senate and the House. What we tried to do was restructure the program. Rather than kill it off, to restructure it in a way that we felt would be more successful. The House obviously thinks we made the wrong choice. But that's, in a sense, what happened.

Q: What was the other guidance? You said there was conflicting guidance.

Mr. Bacon: The 1999 Defense Authorization Bill said that in the absence of new out-year funding identified by the Secretary for design and development of MEADS, it stipulated that "funds appropriated for fiscal year 1999 for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization that are allocated for the MEADS program shall be available to support alternative programmatic and technical approaches to meeting the requirement for mobile theater missile defense." That's what the authorization bill said. Now remember, the authorization bill is passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee as compared to the Appropriations Committee. We're dealing here with a House Appropriations Committee report.

The report language in the Senate appropriations markup says that the committee, quote--this is the Senate Appropriations Committee for 1999--"made reductions to slow the pace of a number of programs that could be affected by the results "-- and they name various experiments. "Specifically, the committee provided lower appropriations for MEADS." The 1999 report from the conference report reduced '99 funding in MEADS by $33 million to $10 million.

Obviously, the House Appropriations Committee believes that the language terminated the MEADS program. We read the language of the authorization bill as giving us the authority to support--to use their language--"alternative, programmatic and technical approaches to meeting the requirement for mobile theater missile defense."

So rather than spending $2 million to terminate the program, we used the $2 million to "support alternate programmatic and technical approaches to meeting the requirement for mobile theater missile defense." The principle way we did that was to restructure the program to build it around the PAC-3 missile rather than its own missile. We regard this as a dispute over the authority or instructions we got from Congress.