The ‘$1 Trillion Plane’: A Plane Costing As Much As A War?

July 3rd, 2011 - by admin

Sheldon Sayre / WAND Action Center – 2011-07-03 22:48:32

WASHINGTON (June 2, 2011) — A recent headline: “The $1 Trillion fighter Jet” (Wall St. Journal, May 26) certainly was eye-catching. Of course the 1 trillion was for more than one plane — 2,500 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters — and is spread over many years. But as the article points out, it doesn’t include the 385 billion more the Department of Defense will need to actually buy the planes.

When Senator McCain in a Senate hearing, called this figure “jaw-dropping” he was reassured by the Lockheed CEO that the company would find ways to bring down the costs. So far this has not happened, the program has long had big cost overruns and other problems, including a back-up engine which the Defense Department doesn’t want — a controversy WAND members are familiar with.

Do we need a new fighter superior to all those we have now? Especially when the small wars we fight these days are with countries who have little or no air force at all? One answer is “to project power” which unfortunately means that China and other rising powers will have to deprive their populations by developing new weapons as well. Also because we sell our war planes to countries such as Saudi Arabia, the US naturally has to have even newer ones.

A second question: does newer always mean better? Yes, far less visible to enemy radar (should they have it) and with many more bells and whistles than the older models. Yes, and each version: the army’s, the navy’s and the marine’s will of course have its own appropriate special features, such as being able to hover and land vertically for the Marines.

Bigger questions arise: why has the Pentagon budget increased by 81% (43% adjusted for inflation) since 9/11 and why have we spent 7.6 trillion on defense and homeland security since then? (Leaving out the cost of Iraq and Afghan wars which are paid for out of supplementary funds.) WAND’s essential partner in challenging our defense budget, National Priorities Project, has just come out with these figures. Commentators are using them to show that the goals of Al Queda were clear and successful: to defeat the US by “economic warfare.”

WAND has always argued that a nation with our present priorities is in trouble. Recently our soon to retire Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has spoken almost the same way. First he questioned that we even improved our “actual military capability” with all this spending and then he found our “priorities” in these difficult economic times for our citizens “vexing and disturbing.”

Some other disturbing parallels: today 46 states have a $130 billion projected shortfall which is the same amount as the supplemental request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009. One economist has produced figures showing how US military spending accounts for a huge amount of our debt today. Increasing it as the Republicans want to do is a strange way of dealing with our economic problems.

Once more, loud and clear, trillions for defense are not only badly spent, they have left us a much poorer country. When our Defense Secretary says this, even the unconvinced have to pay attention.

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