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Mortgaging The Pentagon

Memo Pad

Mortgaging The Pentagon

F-35 Lightning II (createordie via Flickr)

Say you really want a sports car, a vacation, a big new house, or some other fancy thing you can’t really afford. You know that if you buy it, you’ll bust your budget. It would mean a ramen noodle diet and a threadbare closet from now to eternity for you and your family.

So maybe you daydream a little. Or hope to win the lottery. What you don’t do — if you’re responsible — is mortgage everything you own to acquire that one thing you want.

Well, that’s not how things work for the Pentagon.

In its budget request for the next fiscal year, the Pentagon has made clear that it’s ready to break the bank for the fancy thing it really wants — the F-35 joint strike fighter program.

This platinum-plated spork of an aircraft is intended to replace the F-16, F-15, F/A-18, and A-10 jets now in use by the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps.

But it’s hard for anyone to argue with a straight face that the Pentagon can afford to spend $1.5 trillion on a single aircraft program, as the Congressional Budget Office predicts this obsession will eventually cost.

It’s hard for most of us to even visualize $1.5 trillion. A trillion is a thousand billions or a million millions. But let’s put just the Pentagon’s latest procurement request for the F-35 into perspective.

The U.S. military wants to buy 57 F-35s in fiscal year 2016. That’s 19 more than the 38 they got in the previous year’s bill.

If you count just the procurement of those airframes and spare parts alone, you’re looking at $9 billion. The total Pentagon request for procurement is $108 billion.

So that means fully 8.5 percent of all Pentagon spending to buy systems from A to Z — from Apache helicopters to Zumwalt destroyers — is devoted to a single aircraft program. It’s staggering.

There are more ways to slice the budgetary salami. If you look at overall aircraft procurement and research and development costs, you’ll see that 35 percent — more than a third of the total — is dedicated to the F-35’s mammoth tab.

If you break it down by service, you’ll find that over a quarter of the Navy’s “combat aircraft” account for 2016 goes to the F-35. And for the Air Force, it’s 100 percent. Yes, every dime.

This much is clear: The Pentagon — particularly the Air Force — is mortgaging the future of not just other aircraft programs, but all Pentagon procurement, to buy this exorbitant plane.

I sure hope it works, because that’s one pricey, lonely egg in that basket.

Ryan Alexander is president of Taxpayers for Common Sense (Taxpayer.net).

Distributed by OtherWords.org

Photo: createordie via Flickr



  1. Lynda Groom March 12, 2015

    Is it just me, or does this weapon system seem designed for an enemy that does not exist? The F15, 16 & 18’s are still excellent for the job of fighting todays wars. The A10 was a little long in the tooth, but during Gulf One is did well. BTW, does the F35 fly in the rain yet???

    1. JPHALL March 12, 2015

      You are correct. But it gets worst. People forget the billions the Pentagon is still spending on the F-22. We still can not use it for more than training. The pilots keep passing out from oxygen problems.

    2. johninPCFL March 13, 2015

      The A10 was originally designed to destroy the Russian T82 tanks that were going to pour across Europe during the next Soviet attack. When DS1 was launched by GHWB the F16 was used in that role and did OK, but not great. During DS2, the A10 and helicopters were used extensively in that role and the result was complete devastation of Iraq’s tanks and most military vehicles.
      Problem is, the A10 costs only a small fraction of the cost of an F35 and so doesn’t provide the return on investment that the puppet masters demand of the modern GOP.

      1. Lynda Groom March 13, 2015

        Indeed, follow the money is all that is required to understand the problems with Dept of Defense spending.

    3. Sand_Cat March 13, 2015

      For the moment, it looks like the “long in the tooth” A-10 is just what is needed if we insist on sinking ourselves back into the Iraq morass.
      The F-15 – at least – is out of production, but god forbid we restart that with more powerful engines and better avionics. The Russian Su-35 (and Chinese copied) is probably better than current F-15s, but US pilots are probably significantly better on average.

      1. Lynda Groom March 13, 2015

        Indeed the ground support mission that would be involved if we were dumb enough to put more ‘boots on the ground’ would be ideal for the A-10. As to pilot training ours is second to none…at least according to our military brass. I believe them.

  2. Daniel Jones March 13, 2015

    Simply put, the only reason they’re on this is to satisfy their corporate sponsors.

  3. Dominick Vila March 13, 2015

    Why are we building jet fighters like the F-35 when our only REAL military foes, China and Russia, are more interested in economic growth and raising their standards of living, and the only “enemies” we have are people placing road side bombs and firing AK47s from the beds of pickup trucks? Along the same lines, why do we need the same number of carrier groups as all the other Navies of the world combined, including our allies?
    Why is it that nobody is concerned about spending $1.5T dollars building weapons, and so many Americans are up in arms about spending a fraction of that amount helping fellow Americans get the healthcare coverage they need to survive or live a healthy life?

    1. 788eddie March 13, 2015

      I agree, Dominick. Wholeheartedly!

      I think we should be spending more on our veterans, to help all of them get any medical help or counseling that they may need. We still can’t seem to get that done correctly.

    2. johninPCFL March 13, 2015

      Military spending is the only “stimulus” the GOP supports. It doesn’t matter if toilet seats cost $1200 and we have to borrow the money to buy them (just like we did for Reagan.)

  4. jamesowens March 13, 2015

    the air force doesnt want it- the navy-marines and army do not want it- the only ones for the project are

  5. jamesowens March 13, 2015

    only ones who want it are the senators who have airplaane factories in their districts
    all branchs armed services say cost to much and too undependable .

    1. johninPCFL March 13, 2015

      Lockheed and Boeing have now dispersed military aircraft manufacturing to every state but AK and HI. Cutting a single program now directly affects jobs in every state.

  6. PolishEagle_2 March 13, 2015

    Norm Augustine, in his book “Augustine’s laws” predicted in

    “Law Number XVI

    In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3-1/2 days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.”

    Reference from WikiPedia on who Norm Augustine was “Augustine’s laws were a series of tongue in cheek aphorisms put forth by Norman Ralph Augustine, an American aerospace businessman who served as Under Secretary of the Army from 1975 to 1977. In 1984 he published his laws.”

    1. johninPCFL March 13, 2015

      Oh, for the days of WWII when aircraft cost less than $100,000 each and 10s of thousands were bought and destroyed.
      Now each aircraft costs what we spent on entire the Manhattan Project, all four years of it., and exceeds the state budgets of half of the states in the country.
      An aircraft carrier? The entire state budget of California, the fourth largest economy IN THE WORLD doesn’t cover it.
      When do you think we’ll take Reagan’s foot off the Pentagon gas pedal and get back to sanity?

  7. ralphkr March 13, 2015

    I really wonder what the guy was smoking or stoned on when he decided that the F-35 could do the same job as the A-10 Warthog (the best fixed wing ground support aircraft in our arsenal).

    1. 14hei March 13, 2015

      The simple truth is it can’t! It will never be able to take the hits the warthog was able to take and still be combat ready.

  8. Whatmeworry March 13, 2015

    Typical for the MEMO shifting blame away from Obama. The F35 was obsolete BEFORE Obama made this HIS plane The Mig 35 which was operational 2 ears ago already outperforms our F35. The AF never wanted the plane. But our CIC an expert in Air Combat made the F35 the work horse for DOD like McNamara did with the F4

    1. Daniel Max Ketter March 13, 2015

      I checked with my civil air patrol manual, and the Mig 35 was unpopular hardware among the boys in red in surface to ground combat. I fail to see your argument that it could outperform the F-35???? Could you provide me a link?? Otherwise, my expertise says you are in gross error.

  9. 14hei March 13, 2015

    The F-35 fighter-jet is so costly and totally computer driven. It is years in delay of deployment. The problems are too numerous to count and relay to the tax paying American public. The money continued to be spent on this aircraft is a crime. We must be spending tax dollars in a more rational manner. Especially that we are in so much debt. It is surprising that so many Republicans support the funding for this aircraft! The fiscal conservatives that they are!

  10. Whatmeworry March 13, 2015

    Typical for the MEMO shifting blame toward from Obama. The F35 was
    obsolete BEFORE Obama made this HIS plane The Mig 35 which was
    operational 2 ears ago already outperforms our F35. The AF had wanted
    the plane. But our CIC an expert in Air Combat made the F35 the work
    horse for DOD like McNamara did with the F4

    1. Daniel Max Ketter March 13, 2015

      Yeah, all the repubs like to blame our Commander in Chief. It’s just politiks.


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