The jet that ate the Pentagon

Winslow Wheeler writes: 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. Its many problems are acknowledged by its listing in proposals for Pentagon spending reductions by leaders from across the political spectrum, including Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and budget gurus such as former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Alice Rivlin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and Office of Management and Budget.

How bad is it? A review of the F-35’s cost, schedule, and performance — three essential measures of any Pentagon program — shows the problems are fundamental and still growing. [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “The jet that ate the Pentagon

  1. Steve Zerger

    Symptomatic of a pervasive condition. Every where we turn (Deepwater Horizon, health care, financial products, etc.) the costs of further complexity exceed the benefits. Over 20 years ago, Joseph Tainter lucidly described the next step in the process.

  2. Norman

    And just who are the big bad terrorists that threaten the U.S.A.? How about starting right here @ home? I.E., the military industrial complex, # 1. The manufactures should be made to repay every penny that they have gone over budget from the original proposal. Of course that wont happen, but cancellation can and should, letting the manufacture[s] eat their own lunch.

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