Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said the Pentagon made the right decision in suspending the Army's balloon-mounted missile surveillance program at Aberdeen Proving Ground after one of two aircraft escaped last week.

"Under the circumstances, suspending the JLENS program until the Army completes its investigation into last week's incident is the right decision," he said in a statement.


"It is an unfortunate irony that a program designed to help safeguard the skies over the nation's capital threatened the security of citizens on the ground, including in my district."

The football-field sized balloon came free of its moorings a week ago, drifting 160 miles into Pennsylvania trailed by F-16 jets sent to track it. The balloon dragged 6,700 feet of cable behind it, crashing through power lines before coming to ground in Moreland Township, Pa.

On Wednesday, a NORAD release said, "The aerostat has been recovered in its entirety and is in the process of being transported to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and Elizabeth City, North Carolina."

The second balloon was pulled down as soon as troops realized there was a problem and officials said last week it has been grounded indefinitely. The Army has a pair in reserve but has no plans to launch them.

The incident spotlighted a troubled program which has received $2.7 billion in funding but produced few concrete results. The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that lawmakers finalizing defense spending for the coming year clashed over whether the balloons should receive continued funding.

Republicans expressed support for the system, the paper reported, and while other lawmakers are investigating its viability a number have said the Army should finish its investigation before any decision is made.

Ruppersberger said Wednesday that he thinks the Army will be able to figure out what went wrong and whether anyone should be held responsible.

"Only then should a decision be made regarding the program's long-term viability," he said.