The US’s military procurement machine may be the single most successful system of wealth transfer ever devised – moving tens of billions of dollars every year from ordinary taxpayers into the pockets of big defense contractors and their allies in Congress. But as a provider of working equipment to defend the United States against realistic threats, it is becoming more and more dysfunctional with every passing year.
Current administration plans call for spending a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to “modernize” America’s nuclear arsenal to fight a pointless war that would decimate major centers of civilization across the globe. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Learning to Love – and Use – the Bomb“]
At the same time, the Pentagon is also asking for even greater sums to modernize conventional weapons systems that are better suited to East-West conflict scenarios of the 1950s than to today’s skirmishes with insurgents in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
Spending on major military acquisition programs is projected to soar 23 percent, after adjusting for inflation, from fiscal year 2015 to 2022. Worse yet, Congress and the administration are spending much of that money on weapons that don’t even work as advertised.
One of the biggest drivers of new procurement spending today is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet. The plane is too expensive and sophisticated for simple bombing runs in Syria or Afghanistan, but too crippled to use in dogfights against Russia’s or China’s most advanced fighters. It’s ideal for one purpose only: With a total projected program cost of more than $1 trillion, this program will keep Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors in 46 states afloat for at least the next two decades. …
The F-35 isn’t the only dysfunctional weapons procurement program draining money today. Its predecessor, the F-22, proved to be an expensive dog, suffering a critical failure after every 1.7 hours of flight, on average. Although first flown in 1997, it was not allowed into combat until 2014, on a mission over Syria.
Or take the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship. Designed for missions close to shore, it has an experimental aluminum hull that may be vulnerable to rough seas and melt at high temperatures (such as caused by a missile or bomb strike). No one will know for sure until at least 2018, but in the meantime, 24 ships have been built or are under construction. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has asked for cutbacks in the program, but the Navy is in open revolt.
But don’t applaud the Pentagon’s civilian leadership too quickly for challenging the Navy. Carter reportedly wants to use some of the savings from the ship program to buy more F-35 fighter jets.
Feeding the Military-Industrial Complex