An appeal by the U.S. Army’s top officer for congressional support for an international air and missile defense system has Lockheed Martin’s hopes that the controversial program will get funding next year.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno wrote several U.S. lawmakers June 11 urging them to fund NATO’s Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) in 2013.

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin is the lead U.S. contractor on MEADS, a long-running joint program with Germany and Italy. The White House has proposed ending U.S. support for MEADS after completion of a test program next year, but three of four U.S. congressional defense oversight committees have recommended pulling the plug sooner. Only the Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to weigh in.

Odierno said that in his “professional military opinion” there are good reasons to continue funding MEADS in 2013.

“If unfunded, the requirement to pay MEADS program withdrawal costs would compete with other important Air and Missile Defense programs while depriving the Army of access to MEADS technologies,” the letter said.

The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Pentagon to negotiate with Germany and Italy to either terminate MEADS or restructure the program so that it can be completed within its $390 million budget this year. Germany and Italy have not agreed to a restructuring, however, and White House and Pentagon officials have argued denying funds for MEADS next year would amount to a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from an international memorandum of understanding on the program.

Rick Hall, the vice president of business development for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control of Dallas, expressed optimism June 19 that MEADS will be funded in 2013. The Pentagon has requested $400.9 million  for the effort next year.

“We just seen an outpouring of support for the program from the administration, from the secretary of defense and from the leadership of the Army and from the foreign partners,” Hall told reporters at a company facility in Arlington, Va.

MEADS, which has been in development for more than a decade, is designed to use truck-mounted interceptors and omni-directional radars to defeat cruise and short-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of flight.

Odierno’s letter was addressed to at least eight lawmakers, including Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.



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