WASHINGTON - German and Italian officials warned US lawmakers on Wednesday that their plans to cut off funding for a ground-based NATO missile defense program built by Lockheed Martin Corp would endanger US ties with their countries.

Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola urged US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to ensure continued funding for the Medium Extended Air and Missile Defense System (MEADS)program given its importance to NATO's future plans and transatlantic cooperation and collaboration.

German legislator Ernst Reinhard Beck said in a series of e letters to US lawmakers that withholding funding for the program "undermines the longstanding and trustful MEADS partnership" and would risk wasting hundreds of millions of euros already invested in the air missile system.

Three congressional committees have scrapped the Obama administration's request for $400 million to complete funding for testing of the new missile defense program, which is jointly financed by the United States, Italy and Germany.

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