MEADS was designed to intercept medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones – much as the already operational Patriot Missile system has done successfully since the First Gulf War. Beyond this obvious and wasteful duplication, MEADS has experienced a legion of problems of its own. Since its inception in 1996, it has been routinely off budget and behind schedule.
An original selling point for MEADS is its aspiration to have a 360-degree surveillance capability, as opposed to the Patriot or any previous missile-defense system. But if the Patriot system were equipped with three "multi-functional" radar, it too, would have 360-degree coverage. In other words, MEADS in and of itself offers no new capability.
Finally, given all these drawbacks, the Department of Defense gave up on it in 2011, announcing that it would not field MEADS because it cannot afford it. Yet the White House has continued to press Congress to fund the program design and development through 2013 – even after three House and Senate committees zeroed out funding for this boondoggle.
Incredibly, the defense secretary’s off-base logic about enraged allies worked. In August, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense recommended that $380 million be restored to the defense budget, and now the Senate Appropriations Committee has agreed to go along.
There is a real irresponsibility in this exaggeration theme. Whatever happens with MEADS, the sky will not fall down on the transatlantic relationship.