—September 21, 2015
Former President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned Americans to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” because the “potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
Americans have certainly failed to follow that advice and “unwarranted influence” and “misplaced power” are vast understatements with regard to today’s military-industrial complex. Little doubt that Ike, who successfully led the American war effort against Nazi Germany during World War II, would be appalled.
If the military-industrial complex was a single entity or corporation, an appropriate logo for it should include an image of a hammer and/or toilet seat. Easily identified symbols of the Pentagon’s 1980s era procurement of $400 hammers that cost about $12 retail and $600 toilet seats that went for about $21 retail.
While that procurement bungle led to congressional investigations and hearings after being exposed by the press, along with the subsequent Pentagon promises to clean up its procurement act, we doubt much has changed since then, and that the Pentagon still spends taxpayer money like a drunken sailor on leave. In fact, in 2000 and 2001 the Pentagon was under congressional pressure to account for more than $2 trillion in missing money, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld publicly admitted on Sept. 10, 2001 that the Pentagon could not account for about $2.3 trillion in Pentagon funds. The 9/11 attacks happened the next day and the accounting oversight was quickly forgotten.
Although forgotten, this still means that taxpayers are on the hook for an amount equal to about $8,000 for every man, women and child in America. On the hook and paying interest on it, as it was ultimately just added to the government’s deficit.
And now we’re going to spend about $1 trillion on an advanced attack fighter jet program that many analysts say has been mismanaged to the point of being a “financial catastrophe.”
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is the most expensive weapons system in world history, and one that has been plagued with problems and massive cost overruns since its inception. The F-35 is touted by its builders and the Pentagon as being the most lethal and technologically advanced attack aircraft in the world. And this might prove true, if the contractors can actually keep it up in the air and get its numerous advanced systems to work as advertised.
In 2013 the Pentagon’s Inspector General identified 719 issues that could “adversely affect aircraft performance, reliability, maintainability, and ultimately cost.” The IG’s “quality assurance assessment” faulted the Pentagon for losing control over its contractors and quality management procedures.
While many of those issues have been resolved, others, including “catastrophic engine failure” and “structural cracking,” have emerged and the existing fleet of aircraft remains severely restricted in its operational capability as testing continues. Testing that has thus far shown that the F-35 can easily be bested in close-range combat by a 1980s-era F-16, and that its high-tech weapons systems is hard-pressed to identify whether another aircraft is friend or foe. Contractor Lockheed Martin’s response to this leaked news was that the F-35 is designed for long-range combat and not “visual dogfighting situations.” That’s reassuring!
Despite all this, and the lack of a working gatling gun (the high-tech system is still under testing and reportedly will not be air-operational for at least another year), the U.S. Marine Corps declared its version of the F-35 combat ready as of July.
The question is will the Marine Corps be able to keep any of them in the air. As of earlier this year, the amount of maintenance needed per jet to keep them air worthy allows for about 7.7 flight hours per month, or one sortie every 5.5 days. And that’s making our potential enemies lose sleep with worry….
Oh, and the aircraft are so high-tech that maintenance has to be conducted by the contractors who built the plane. Cha-ching! and little doubt that the $1 trillion estimated cost is going to rise.
Yep, beware the military-industrial complex because there’s apparently no accountability and obviously no lack of taxpayer money with which to feed the military-industrial complex trough.
—Originally published in Hash It Out! Sept. 21, 1015.