Two lawmakers are demanding to know whether the gigantic helium-filled military blimpÂ which escapedfrom its mooring and took out power lines is worth $3 billion intaxpayer dollars.
GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz , chairman of the House Committee onOversight and Government Reform, and Democratic Rep. ElijahCummings , ranking member, sent letters to Defense Secretary AshCarter and Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxxrequesting the two provide documents justifying the expense totaxpayers by Nov. 12.
On Wednesday, one of the two 240-foot blimps, called the JointLand Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System(JLENS), broke loose from its mooring and drifted intoPennsylvania, 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 flightpatterns and knocked over power lines, leaving approximately 20,000 people without electricity, beforefinally coming down in Moreland Township, Penn.
The F-16s did not shoot down the blimp. It’s still unclearwhy the cables snapped in the first place. No one was hurt in theincident, but the blimp quickly became a social media sensation.(RELATED: Meet The JLENS, The $3 Billion, Top Secret Blimp That RanAmok Across PA)
â€œThis event raises questions about the valueand reliability of JLENS, which also failed to detect a gyrocopteras it approached, and eventually landed, on the West Lawn of theU.S. Capitol,â€ Chaffetz and Cummings wrote.
Chaffetz and Cummings want Carter to provide all Department ofDefense contracts associated with JLENS, as well as detailedinformation on the reliability of JLENSâ€”that is,â€œreliability improvement plans, developmentaltest results, deployment test results, electronic environmentaleffects testing results, and information assurance testresults.â€
The two asked Foxx to provide the same information on behalf ofthe Department of Transportation.
JLENS has been the subject of controversy, as it possessessurveillance capabilities, but mostly because it theRaytheon-designed craft has cost a considerable amount, yet stillis plagued with problems.
The Office of Operational Test and Evaluation published a report in2013 arguing that â€œsystem-level reliability isnot meeting program growth goals.â€ Aside from growthgoals, JLENS also â€œdoes not meet therequirements for Operational Availability, Mean Time to Repair, orMean Time Between System Abort.â€