Waiting for Slash-the-Budget Righties to Have a Fit About This
Hey, I have an idea. Let’s cut food stamps, unemployment benefits, Social Security, education, environmental protections, funds for road and bridge repair, food safety programs and shit like that so we can spend a trilling dollars on new toys for the military. (BTW, I thought drones were the new new thing. Do we need fighter jets anymore?)
The Jet That Ate the Pentagon
The F-35 is a boondoggle. It’s time to throw it in the trash bin.
The United States is making a gigantic investment in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, billed by its advocates as the next — by their count the fifth — generation of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat aircraft. Claimed to be near invisible to radar and able to dominate any future battlefield, the F-35 will replace most of the air-combat aircraft in the inventories of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and at least nine foreign allies, and it will be in those inventories for the next 55 years. It’s no secret, however, that the program — the most expensive in American history — is a calamity.
This month, we learned that the Pentagon has increased the price tag for the F-35 by another $289 million — just the latest in a long string of cost increases — and that the program is expected to account for a whopping 38 percent of Pentagon procurement for defense programs, assuming its cost will grow no more.
First, with regard to cost — a particularly important factor in what politicians keep saying is an austere defense budget environment — the F-35 is simply unaffordable. Although the plane was originally billed as a low-cost solution, major cost increases have plagued the program throughout the last decade. Last year, Pentagon leadership told Congress the acquisition price had increased another 16 percent, from $328.3 billion to $379.4 billion for the 2,457 aircraft to be bought. Not to worry, however — they pledged to finally reverse the growth.
The result? This February, the price increased another 4 percent to $395.7 billion and then even further in April. Don’t expect the cost overruns to end there: The test program is only 20 percent complete, the Government Accountability Office has reported, and the toughest tests are yet to come. Overall, the program’s cost has grown 75 percent from its original 2001 estimate of $226.5 billion — and that was for a larger buy of 2,866 aircraft.
A final note on expense: The F-35 will actually cost multiples of the $395.7 billion cited above. That is the current estimate only to acquire it, not the full life-cycle cost to operate it. The current appraisal for operations and support is $1.1 trillion — making for a grand total of $1.5 trillion, or more than the annual GDP of Spain.
I crack myself up when I say I’m waiting for slash-the-budget righties to have a fit about this because that’ll never happen. The boys who are building this thing are their buddies. What’s going on here is basically another TARP program under the guise of “keeping us safe;” a trillion dollars for something we don’t know works. Who does that?
USA! USA! USA!