Yesterday, I compared the Central Asia Institute to the federal government in terms of waste. That’s not really fair is it? I mean we all know the government wastes money. What we really need to do is show how effective and efficient the private sector is when it comes to spending money.
So how does a private organization--say Lockheed Martin--compare to Central Asia Institute in terms of spending the money the U.S. government has donated to it? Take, for example, the Joint Strike Fighter.
The per unit cost of each Joint Strike fighter has gone from an initial bid price of 50 million dollars per unit to 74 million dollars, in 2002 adjusted terms. To put that in perspective, Lockheed Martin said in 2002 they could build Joint Strike Fighters for 50 million dollars per plane, but were off by the annual budget of the CAI. Per plane. Oh, and the initial production date of 2010 was pushed back to 2015. (That’s as if the CAI had wasted millions of dollars, but said they still didn’t plan on wasting the money for five more years.)
In response, former Secretary of Defense Gates withheld 614 million dollars in bonuses from Lockheed Martin; or about 12 times the amount the CAI has ever earned in donations. The Economist’s reporting did a pretty good job illuminating the Joint Strike Fighter’s failures. (Technically, Congressional Quarterly Weekly did the ground breaking, but they're owned by same company.)
All of which begs the question, has it been a wise use of funds? According to Stars and Stripes (which had some pretty good coverage too):
“Meanwhile, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is on Capitol Hill’s radar after a CQ Weekly cover story hit every member of Congress’ office, blasting the program as the most expensive weapons project in history, way over budget and overdue. Get your hands on a copy to read how each administration has passed the blame, and how an unworkable helmet targeting system planned for JSF pilots could scuttle the entire project.”
And the Joint Strike Fighter will keep on costing. Lockheed now predicts that the plane will cost the Pentagon a trillion--with a T, trillion--dollars over the course of its lifetime. As an added bonus, according to The Wall Street Journal, Chinese computer spies might have hacked into terabytes of data about it. Recently, both the Joint Strike Fighter and the F-22 Raptor have been grounded to mechanical problems. In other words, we have spent billions on two new fighter planes, neither of which works.
While milbloggers and security wonks anxiously await the impending cuts to defense that will “ruin our national security” (insert your own link here), the Joint Strike Fighter reminds us that maybe the Pentagon isn’t that good at saving taxpayer money. The Joint Strike Fighter isn’t the only example, just the latest. Remember the Future Combat System?
And ballistic missile defense? And untested body armor?
And the Littoral Combat Ship?
And the Comanche? And the Crusader?
And the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle? And the V-22 Osprey?
And the Coast Guard’s “Deepwater” modernization program? And Homeland Security/the Border Patrol’s fence “Secure Border Initiative Network”?.
We’ll learn. Someday. Maybe. Hopefully.