Two lawmakers are demanding to know whether the gigantic helium-filled military blimp which escaped from its mooring and took out power lines is worth $3 billion in taxpayer dollars.
GOP Rep. [crscore]Jason Chaffetz[/crscore], chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Democratic Rep. [crscore]Elijah Cummings[/crscore], ranking member, sent letters to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx requesting the two provide documents justifying the expense to taxpayers by Nov. 12.
On Wednesday, one of the two 240-foot blimps, called the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS), broke loose from its mooring and drifted into Pennsylvania, all the while dragging around 6,700 feet of cables. Two New Jersey Air National Guard F-16s scrambled to track the craft. The blimp disrupted flight patterns and knocked over power lines, leaving approximately 20,000 people without electricity, before finally coming down in Moreland Township, Penn.
The F-16s did not shoot down the blimp. It’s still unclear why the cables snapped in the first place. No one was hurt in the incident, but the blimp quickly became a social media sensation. (RELATED: Meet The JLENS, The $3 Billion, Top Secret Blimp That Ran Amok Across PA)
“This event raises questions about the value and reliability of JLENS, which also failed to detect a gyrocopter as it approached, and eventually landed, on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol,” Chaffetz and Cummings wrote.
Chaffetz and Cummings want Carter to provide all Department of Defense contracts associated with JLENS, as well as detailed information on the reliability of JLENS—that is, “reliability improvement plans, developmental test results, deployment test results, electronic environmental effects testing results, and information assurance test results.”
The two asked Foxx to provide the same information on behalf of the Department of Transportation.
JLENS has been the subject of controversy, as it possesses surveillance capabilities, but mostly because it the Raytheon-designed craft has cost a considerable amount, yet still is plagued with problems.
The Office of Operational Test and Evaluation published a report in 2013 arguing that “system-level reliability is not meeting program growth goals.” Aside from growth goals, JLENS also “does not meet the requirements for Operational Availability, Mean Time to Repair, or Mean Time Between System Abort.”
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