June 1, 2010  

Airborne loser

To Congress for continuing to keep alive the Airborne Laser, a program so plagued by problems and delays that it was all but canceled last year. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stopped everything except an experimental facet of the Airborne Laser after 15 years and $5 billion failed to produce any significant progress. Gates cited the laser-firing plane’s major affordability and technology problems and called its operational role “highly questionable.” Yet the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee has lumped an extra $361 million on to next year’s defense budget for ballistic missile defense, including $50 million to keep Airborne Laser on life support. As defense budgets tighten and military personnel costs soar, Congress must slice the fat. Killing Airborne Laser is an easy choice.