The New F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. My, How Time And Money Fly!

It seems that the United States military-industrial complex has always been good at squandering taxpayer money. But, as the most costly weapons program in our nation’s history, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has taken wasteful spending to a new level.

The F-35 was supposed to replace the F-16 as the nation’s premier fighter jet. But it’s more than seven years behind schedule and more than $163 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) over budget. It has also been grounded more than a school kid who refuses to study or listen to his parents, leading the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, to call the F-35 program “acquisition malpractice” during an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

In order to fully appreciate the problems with the F-35, it should be noted that a contract for the fighter was awarded to Lockheed-Martin in 2001 with expectations that our combined forces would acquire 2,852 of the planes at a cost of $233 billion. But, following a series of blunders and redesigns, only 114 had been built as of November 2014, and the fighter is not expected to be fully deployed until 2018. Ultimately, the fighters are expected to cost from $98 million to $114 million each with the total cost of the program likely to exceed $400 billion. To make matters worse, the GAO found that operating costs for the F-35 would be 79 percent higher than for the aircraft it replaces. And the F-35A’s cost per flying hour is $7,000 per hour higher than the F-16C/D.

Yet costs aren’t the only concern. There are also concerns with the plane’s performance and safety.

For example, some defense experts have questioned relying solely upon “short range” aircraft like the F-35 in future conflicts and have suggested reducing the number of F-35s ordered in favor of a longer range platform. Others have raised safety issues over the F-35’s reliance on a single engine versus the twin-engine F-16. The plane has been accused of being “heavy and sluggish” and possessing a “pitifully small payload for the money.” These problems showed themselves when, in 2008, two former RAND Corporation employees conducted simulated war games between the F-35 and the Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter. The Russian fighter won!

There are also questions about the F-35’s capability of engaging modern air defenses. In an apparent acknowledgement of the problem, the Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin $450 million in 2012 to improve the F-35 electronic warfare systems and incorporate Israeli systems.

During evaluation flights, USAF test pilots have noted a lack of visibility from the F-35 cockpit, stating that the problem would lead to them being shot down in combat and leading one defense analyst to conclude that the F-35A “is flawed beyond redemption.” It was also noted that the plane’s current software is inadequate for even basic pilot training, that its ejection seat may fail causing pilot fatality, that its radar performs poorly, or not at all, and that its engine replacement takes an average of 52 hours, instead of the two hours specified.

A 2015 Pentagon report also found issues with the plane’s reliability and maintainability, significant fire risk due to vulnerability of its fuel tanks, concerns with wing drop that have yet to be resolved after 6 years, engine problems, problems with its software and problems with the F-35’s high-tech helmet. And even before the F-35 could be deployed, China unveiled a portable long-range surveillance radar system specifically designed to defeat stealth aircraft like the F-35.

As if all of these problems aren’t bad enough, the fighter’s technology has already been compromised. After sharing the F-35’s plans with our ally, Australia, last year it was determined that someone – likely China – had hacked Australia’s computers and downloaded the plans. Though the plane offered to Australia is not exactly like those intended for the US military, it’s close enough for concern.

Given the delays and cost overruns, would anyone really be surprised if China ended up deploying the fighter before we do?

To read even more about the F-35, visit Wikipedia.

No One More Deserving Of Contempt.

On Thursday, January 15, a United States District Court Judge called for a contempt of court proceeding against Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “nation’s toughest sheriff.” It’s a development for which I have only one question: What took so long?

The oh-so-tough Sheriff Joe has a long history of deeds that are deserving of contempt. The courts have found him guilty of racially-profiling Latinos, costing the county tens of millions in unnecessary court costs and court judgments. By my admittedly incomplete accounting, Arpaio has, thus far, cost Maricopa County taxpayers at least $81.125 million in legal fees and settlements. And that doesn’t even include the tens of millions of county funds he has misspent on a variety of law enforcement toys and other unapproved items.

In addition, Arpaio’s office failed to investigate sexual assaults in a predominantly Latino area of the county. He has profited from his own political action committee. And, according to the American Friends Service Committee, his Tent City jail, which was ballyhooed as a way to save the county money, costs more per prisoner than any other prison in the state. This despite the fact that it has no heat, no air conditioning and its only bathrooms are portable latrines located next to a dump. (Of course, that is a perfect image for a prison that has one of the highest recidivism rates in the nation. Like our trash, the prisoners are dumped in the desert, surrounded by razor wire, covered with fabric and largely forgotten.)

In reality, the terrorists housed in Gitmo have better facilities. Indeed, an Amnesty International report that found that Tent City is not an “adequate or humane alternative to housing inmates…”

Despite his excesses and failings, for unexplainable reasons Joe is still admired by those who would otherwise demand accountability and fiscal restraint from their elected officials. That’s because Joe is a master of fear-mongering. Over the years, he has scared enough Maricopa County residents into voting for him that he has been elected to six terms by portraying all Latinos as drug-running, human-trafficking, murdering criminals who have crossed our borders illegally and are taking our jobs. He has also successfully pandered to his right wing base by devoting time to try to prove that President Obama is not a US citizen.

So are these the reasons why Arpaio is now facing contempt charges? No, Joe is facing contempt for simply failing to follow court orders. In other words, the get-tough sheriff who claims to pursue any and all lawbreakers is himself accused of ignoring the legal system.

If there is any justice, the highly-contemptible Sheriff Joe will be found guilty and assigned to his own Tent City where he can enjoy the odors coming from its portable toilets, which are frankly less disagreeable than the stench of corruption coming from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and his political friends.

With Friends Like These…

The Karzai government in Afghanistan was put in place with the help of the US. Since the government is a supposed ally, we have spent more than $100 billion to rebuild the country that the Soviets and we destroyed – more than we spent to rebuild Japan or Germany after World War II; more than we spent to rebuild South Korea; even more than we spent to rebuild Iraq. Most of the money has been wasted. Indeed, much of it has found its way into the hands of the Taliban and Pakistanis. It has been used to prop up the most corrupt government in the world…a government that has accepted our money and redirected much of it into the pockets of Karzai, his associates and family members.

In truth, the Afghan government cannot and likely will not be able to survive on its own. It exists only because of our military forces and our taxpayer money. Indeed, the government’s entire annual revenue totals only $2 billion per year. Yet it costs more than $4 billion per year just to support the Afghan military. Without our financial aid, it has no money to pay for roads, schools, an electric grid, safe water supplies, waste treatment, emergency services and health care. Despite that fact, Karzai refuses to agree to a sustainable level of US military advisors following our pullout at the end of the year. This almost guarantees that much of the country will fall back into Taliban control.

Of course, that likely won’t mean a stop to the waste of our foreign aid. We are committed to funding the Afghan government at the same levels until at least 2017. There are simply too many military leaders, weapons manufacturers and private contractors who profit from our taxpayers’ largess to allow the flow of money to end.

And there are more long-standing recipients of our military aid. For example, we have been providing financial support to Israel for more than 60 years. Despite the fact that the Israeli standard of living and Human Development Index roughly equal ours, we send them more than $3 billion a year. And how do they repay us for our support? They bluster and threaten their neighbors. They continue to expand housing developments onto Palestinian lands. They ignore our attempts to broker a long-term settlement with Palestine and the rest of their neighbors. They have sent operatives to spy on our military and our government. They meddle in our politics. They have even sold some of our most secret military technologies to Russia and other nations.

Yet, because of the power of the Israeli-American lobby, no American politician dare complain.