MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Too big to fail: With millions invested, the F-35 is here to stay

Posted by M. C. on April 5, 2019

“The military industrial congressional complex has perfected its methods for ensuring programs of this kind can endure despite disappointing performance in almost every objective military measure,”

https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2019/04/too-big-to-fail-with-millions-invested-the-f-35/

By

In 1997, Lockheed Martin was selected to compete to design and build what would become the F-35 Lightning II. Over that course of time, this fighter jet program has become one of the most expensive in American history and has faced a variety of serious technical and functional challenges. The plane was finally deemed ready for combat in 2018, despite remaining concerns about the plane’s ability to fly and fight.

Even with all the controversy regarding the plane, bipartisan members of Congress this week asked their colleagues to adjust President Trump’s 2020 budget request to include more F-35s. As Lockheed has invested millions in congressional candidates and created jobs in nearly every U.S. state, the political support of the project remains strong.

The House members that wrote the letter asking for more F-35s are part of the Joint Strike Fighter Caucus. The group, led by Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.), Martha Roby (R-Ala.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas) and Mike Turner (R-Ohio), was formed in 2011 by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) and former Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wa.). All five of the current caucus members mentioned above received the maximum in PAC contributions from Lockheed Martin in the 2018 cycle. In a press release announcing the caucus’ formation, Granger and Dicks called the fighter plane program “an absolute necessity,” citing the number of jobs it would support.

Initially, the planes were supposed to cost $38 million each, however even though it often dramatically underperforms each individual plane costs the U.S. government an average of $158.4 million. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor, while Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems contributed parts…

“The military industrial congressional complex has perfected its methods for ensuring programs of this kind can endure despite disappointing performance in almost every objective military measure,” he said.

A recent report by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) laid out the litany of problems facing the aircraft. Some of the issues include malfunctioning combat computer systems, cyber vulnerabilities which could allow hackers to access the planes’ network, problems with the accuracy of the planes’ guns and a tendency to develop cracks which require numerous repairs.

Dan Grazier, a former Marine Corps captain and military fellow at POGO and author of the report, said that even with all the program’s problems it will continue on.

“The military industrial congressional complex has perfected its methods for ensuring programs of this kind can endure despite disappointing performance in almost every objective military measure,” he said…

Since the 1990 cycle, Lockheed employees and the company’s PAC have contributed almost a combined $39.7 million. The 2018 cycle saw the most contributed by affiliates in a midterm with almost $4.7 million.

Granger was the top recipient of money from Lockheed’s PAC and employees in 2018 with $131,940, more than double the next closest recipient. Granger, the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, received $549,990, mostly from Lockheed employees, over the course of her career making it her top all-time donor.

Granger has been a member of the Appropriations Committee since 1999 and at different points served as Vice Chair and Chair of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. One of the F-35 assembly plants is in Granger’s district and she has been described as a “champion” of the program…

“Even if the engineers can eventually complete the design and make it function the way we have been promised it would, the program comes with a high cost of ownership,” he said. “This is by design as it ensures Lockheed Martin receives lucrative, sole-source sustainment contracts for as long as the aircraft flies.”

He also laid out another unforeseen consequence of the program’s struggles — the possibility of pilots leaving the service as there will be “a difficult time keeping the aircraft flying.” And with fewer aircraft in the air, top pilots could get frustrated and leave the service, Grazier warned…

Be seeing you

f35-moneydump

 

 

 

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