Congress “Shuttering” Pentagon’s Runaway Missile Defense Balloons

There were few stories which produce as much comical relief as the story of the runaway balloon. The balloon was one of a pair of helium-filled missile defense balloons being tested by the Pentagon.

The struggling program was further shown in a bad light when one of the pair broke its tethers and floated across the Pennsylvania countryside. The runaway floating radar left a path of damaged roofs and downed power lines.

The result was an angry public and a reduced budget for a program already failing to perform as hoped. And now it is not likely that there will be any money forthcoming in the near future.

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The Washington Times reports

The twin helium-filled balloons known as the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) were already on a short leash before theirs snapped.
After the incident, Congress cut the program’s funding from $40.5 million to $10.5 million in the 2016 budget. The Pentagon last month pushed lawmakers to divert some $27.5 million from other projects to repair the aerostats and keep a three-year trial program on track, a request denied by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

This means that the program will essentially be stuck in mid-air (pun intended). Without the funds to repair the damaged balloon the program is unable to move forward. But Congress has not entirely shut down the project, so they can go neither forward nor back.

Some say that this is a dangerous thing for our national security.

The Times continued

As the offensive capabilities of missiles continue to outstrip other defensive systems, former Department of Defense official Chet Nagle said, JLENS is increasingly indispensable to national security.

“The family of missiles that is arrayed around the world now is huge and growing more and more sophisticated, and our defenses are standing still,” Mr. Nagle said, pointing to purveyors of cruise missiles like Russia and China. “The problem for us is there’s no defense in the United States today against cruise missiles. Zero. Zip.

So is this a case of overspending or an example of bureaucratic meddling? Well, if we look at all the facts the best answer is yes on both counts.

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