ACTION ALERT: Scrap the F-35 — ‘The Jet that Ate the Pentagon’

August 2nd, 2013 - by admin

Stephen Miles / Credo Action & Winslow Wheeler / Foreign Policy – 2013-08-02 02:10:17

ACTION ALERT: The F-35 is a Bad Deal for America
Stephen Miles / Credo Action

Add your name to the following petition to the United States Congress and demand that Washington stop wasting taxpayer money on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
Click Here

Petition To: United States Congress

WASHINGTON, DC (August 1, 2013) — The F-35 is the poster child for what’s wrong in Washington. At an outrageous cost of $1.5 trillion, it is the most expensive weapon program the world has ever seen. Even worse, it doesn’t work as intended and funnels money away from other priorities needed to fight 21st century threats and strengthen America.

Yet Lockheed Martin and an army of lobbyists are determined to protect their cash cow and record profits by pressuring Congress to keep the F-35 alive. The F-35 is a bad deal for America and it’s time to stop it.

Why is this important?
With politicians across the country calling for budget cuts, American taxpayers are being asked to keep spending billions of dollars a year on one of the most wasteful programs in the history of the military.

Rather than cut the F-35, some in Washington continue to insist that we cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, slash domestic investments, and balance the budget on the backs of the students, veterans, and the middle class. That is simply a bad deal for America.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive weapon program in history. To purchase, operate, and maintain the jets is estimated to cost $1.5 trillion over the life of the program. Each jet will cost nearly $160 million just to purchase and the US is currently planning to buy 2,457 total F-35s.

Originally conceived to fight Soviet fighter jets, the F-35 is nearly useless against the security threats of the 21st century (terrorism, climate change, cyber warfare).

Even worse, the F-35 doesn’t work. Its development has been plagued by design flaws, technical failures, and a host of other problems that mean even under the best circumstances, the F-35 is years away from meeting minimal operational standards.

Yet Congress and the Pentagon are pushing forward with plans to keep buying more F-35s — broken planes that they know will require billions of dollars in repairs before they can ever be used in combat. The very same politicians rushing to slash social security, privatize Medicare, and defund nearly every agency of government are insisting that we continue full speed ahead on the F-35.

And with an army of lobbyists at its disposal, Lockheed Martin — maker of the F-35 — is fighting hard to make sure nothing changes. Even in the best of times, this wouldn’t make sense. With millions of Americans still out of work, the middle class being crushed, and an economy in dire need of recovery, this is insanity.

Our members of congress know that the state of the social safety net will be a critical issue in upcoming elections. If enough of us speak up to our elected officials and let them know that we want them to end the F-35 program instead of gutting social security and medicare, they’ll know that letting that this insane weapons program continue will prove politically costly. Rather than throwing good money after bad, Congress should not spend another penny on the troubled F-35.

The Jet That Ate the Pentagon
The F-35 is a boondoggle. It’s time to throw it in the trash bin

Winslow Wheeler / Foreign Policy

(April 26, 2013) — The United States is making a gigantic investment in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, billed by its advocates as the next — by their count the fifth — generation of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat aircraft.

Claimed to be near invisible to radar and able to dominate any future battlefield, the F-35 will replace most of the air-combat aircraft in the inventories of the US Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and at least nine foreign allies, and it will be in those inventories for the next 55 years. It’s no secret, however, that the program — the most expensive in American history — is a calamity.

This month, we learned that the Pentagon has increased the price tag for the F-35 by another $289 million — just the latest in a long string of cost increases — and that the program is expected to account for a whopping 38 percent of Pentagon procurement for defense programs, assuming its cost will grow no more.

Its many problems are acknowledged by its listing in proposals for Pentagon spending reductions by leaders from across the political spectrum, including Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and budget gurus such as former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Alice Rivlin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and Office of Management and Budget.

How bad is it? A review of the F-35’s cost, schedule, and performance — three essential measures of any Pentagon program — shows the problems are fundamental and still growing.

First, with regard to cost — a particularly important factor in what politicians keep saying is an austere defense budget environment — the F-35 is simply unaffordable. Although the plane was originally billed as a low-cost solution, major cost increases have plagued the program throughout the last decade.

Last year, Pentagon leadership told Congress the acquisition price had increased another 16 percent, from $328.3 billion to $379.4 billion for the 2,457 aircraft to be bought. Not to worry, however — they pledged to finally reverse the growth.

The result? This February, the price increased another 4 percent to $395.7 billion and then even further in April. Don’t expect the cost overruns to end there: The test program is only 20 percent complete, the Government Accountability Office has reported, and the toughest tests are yet to come. Overall, the program’s cost has grown 75 percent from its original 2001 estimate of $226.5 billion — and that was for a larger buy of 2,866 aircraft.

Hundreds of F-35s will be built before 2019, when initial testing is complete. The additional cost to engineer modifications to fix the inevitable deficiencies that will be uncovered is unknown, but it is sure to exceed the $534 million already known from tests so far.

The total program unit cost for each individual F-35, now at $161 million, is only a temporary plateau. Expect yet another increase in early 2013, when a new round of budget restrictions is sure to hit the Pentagon, and the F-35 will take more hits in the form of reducing the numbers to be bought, thereby increasing the unit cost of each plane.

The U.S. Jets That Ruled the Skies
A final note on expense: The F-35 will actually cost multiples of the $395.7 billion cited above. That is the current estimate only to acquire it, not the full life-cycle cost to operate it.

The current appraisal for operations and support is $1.1 trillion — making for a grand total of $1.5 trillion, or more than the annual GDP of Spain. And that estimate is wildly optimistic: It assumes the F-35 will only be 42 percent more expensive to operate than an F-16, but the F-35 is much more complex.

The only other “fifth generation” aircraft, the F-22 from the same manufacturer, is in some respects less complex than the F-35, but in 2010, it cost 300 percent more to operate per hour than the F-16. To be very conservative, expect the F-35 to be twice the operating and support cost of the F-16.

Already unaffordable, the F-35’s price is headed in one direction — due north.

The F-35 isn’t only expensive — it’s way behind schedule. The first plan was to have an initial batch of F-35s available for combat in 2010. Then first deployment was to be 2012. More recently, the military services have said the deployment date is “to be determined.” A new target date of 2019 has been informally suggested in testimony — almost 10 years late.

If the F-35’s performance were spectacular, it might be worth the cost and wait. But it is not. Even if the aircraft lived up to its original specifications — and it will not — it would be a huge disappointment. The reason it is such a mediocrity also explains why it is unaffordable and, for years to come, unobtainable.

Winslow Wheeler is director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information. Previously, he worked for 31 years on national security issues for Republican and Democratic senators on Capitol Hill and for the Government Accountability Office. He is editor of the anthology The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It.

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