Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Military Government The Almighty Buck United States Politics Technology

There Is Plenty To Cut At the Pentagon 484

Posted by timothy
from the sacred-cows-make-great-brisket dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, writes that although we have been bombarded with tales of woe about the potentially devastating impacts of cutting the Pentagon budget 8% under the sequester, examples of egregious waste and misplaced spending priorities at the Pentagon abound. One need look no further than the department's largest weapons program, the F-35 combat aircraft, which has just been grounded again after a routine inspection revealed a crack on a turbine blade in the jet engine of an F-35 test aircraft in California. Even before it has moved into full-scale production, the plane has already increased in price by 75%, and it has so far failed to meet basic performance standards. By the Pentagon's own admission, building and operating three versions of the F-35 — one for the Air Force, one for the Navy and one for the Marines — will cost more than $1.4 trillion over its lifetime, making it the most expensive weapons program ever undertaken. And in an era in which aerial combat is of diminishing importance and upgraded versions of current generation U.S. aircraft can more than do the job, it is not at all clear that we need to purchase more than 2,400 of these planes. Cutting the two most expensive versions of the F-35 will save over $60 billion in the next decade."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

There Is Plenty To Cut At the Pentagon

Comments Filter:
  • No bias at all... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dywolf (2673597) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @09:36AM (#42988749)

    I especially love this statement: " By the Pentagon's own admission, building and operating three versions of the F-35 — one for the Air Force, one for the Navy and one for the Marines — will cost more than $1.4 trillion over its lifetime, making it the most expensive weapons program ever undertaken". The implication being even the military thinks it too much, which they don't. Such a statement implies something that doesnt exist, and conveniently ignores that the entire reason for developing a common platform for multiple roles is to save money. Yes, that one single platform is 1.4T. But the thinking was that 3 separate weapon systems to update all 3 branches at would cost even more. When properly executed this type of program does work; shared parts commonality is a real savings. When poorly executed you can end up with an unusable product (re: Naval version of the F-111 that was too heavy and unmaneuverable)

    Point is, yes, the man from the CIP, a group dedicated to the eradication of the world's militaries, but particularly the US military, thinks we should cut the military.
    Shocking. I love how people for various things never call their organization by their true intentions, but always give it something normal and official sounding, to create a built in bias towards thinking they are legit when they call for things.

  • Re:No bias at all... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jawnn (445279) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @09:58AM (#42988811)

    Point is, yes, the man from the CIP, a group dedicated to the eradication of the world's militaries, but particularly the US military, thinks we should cut the military. Shocking. I love how people for various things never call their organization by their true intentions, but always give it something normal and official sounding, to create a built in bias towards thinking they are legit when they call for things.

    So..., you're saying that an organization that, "...promotes transparency and accountability in U.S. foreign policy, while advocating a foreign policy that promotes international cooperation, demilitarization and respect for human rights..." (taken directly from the CIP mission statement) should have no credibility? That it's not possible that one of the reasons that they support "demilitarization" is that they actually understand that the business of war is hugely profitable and the money that is spend on that might be better spent on better things? Riiiiiiight....

  • Fix acquisitions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @10:06AM (#42988843)
    There is no need to cut programs or funding. If the Pentagon wants to save billions per year, simply fix the acquisitions process. Pretty much every single defense program in development and production runs over in time and budget. If we simply hold the contractors to the terms of their contracts, we will save tons of money and have equipment that works. Contracts are always underestimated in terms of the time frame and the cost, and yet companies that constantly overrun these still get preferential treatment when it comes to the next contract. And heaven forbid there's a fair competition for a bid: if one of the main contractors doesn't win the bid, they push for and usually get a reevaluation from the military for the bid, and usually end up getting the contract. A simple fix off the top of my head would be that, should a contractor not be able to adhere to the terms of the contract, they should be unable to bid on another contract for a certain period of time. Any other business that was constantly late and over budget would stop getting work and go out of business; so why do we tolerate it with defense companies? We need a strong military, and we need new, modern equipment. What we don't need are programs that run 3-4x over their stated costs or take 15-20 years instead of 10.
  • Re:No bias at all... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @10:11AM (#42988863)
    The problem is the F-35 doesnt need to replace half of those planes. Instead of scrapping the F-15s or F-16s, we could have just upgraded and modified them: new electronics, upgrade the airframe (I think a lot of the 16s are starting to develop cracks in their wings). And the F-35 has nowhere near the survivability of an A-10. A-10s can fly and land with damage that would make any other plane fall out of the sky. Instead of spending a lot of money on the bastardized F-35 (remember, something that can do a little bit of everything can't do anything well), we should have bought a lot more of the F-22s and upgraded the rest of the fleet.
  • by fafaforza (248976) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @11:05AM (#42989121)

    Yeah, state of the art military that doesn't do much of anything, and we're all driving on pot hole riddled roads, we have 40 kids to a classroom, our bridges are falling down, and there's never any money for anything in our budget. This is the thinking that keeps senators from cutting any spending. Because of the immediate negative effect on their constituents. That money could be used elsewhere, and people would retain employment.

  • by hrvatska (790627) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @11:11AM (#42989143)
    Some insurance companies can go bankrupt. Others, like AIG, apparently cannot. And probably, if any of the other large insurance companies that provide millions of seniors with retirement income through annuities was about to go bankrupt, the federal government and the Fed would likely figure out a way to keep it afloat and continue paying on its obligations. If you think Social Security has problems, it is nothing compared to the coming problems faced by China's pension system. It has worse demographics and the retirement age is much lower (55 for women, 60 for men) than in the U.S. And, it's not just China and the US. Japan, Europe in general, Brazil, and Russia face the same dilemma. I don't think every major country's currency is going to become worthless and I don't think they are going throw all their elderly out on the street, either. There are fixes for both Social Security and Medicare, but political gridlock in Washington prevents any meaningful change.
  • by nbauman (624611) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @11:19AM (#42989173) Homepage Journal

    I've seen economists say that you can't buy an annuity on the free market that would give you as good a return as Social Security.

    It's one of those things that the government can do more efficiently than private enterprise.

  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @11:38AM (#42989283) Journal

    You seem to be under the misconception that when you paid SS taxes, those dollars were being set aside for you to be "returned" to you later. No, they were given to current retirees.

    A more accurate statement would be, "so after old people have taken all this money from me, you would change the law to say that I can't take money from workers when I'm old?"

  • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @11:53AM (#42989375)

    Also eliminating laws which require contracts to go to the lowest bidder. Removing discretion in procurement is as bad as having no oversight at all - it means the people making the decisions have no leeway when they see a bid they know can't quite work out, even if it would be very hard to prove why conclusively.

    There was an example of this a while ago, where a bid to provide ammunition to the US army was made fraudulently, was incredibly low, and wound up killing a bunch of people when the guy who put it in's factory that was repackaging old Chinese bullets to the US army blew up in the middle of the town, killing 30 or so workers.

    http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/firing-blanks-afghanistan [cato.org]

  • by nbauman (624611) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @12:02PM (#42989449) Homepage Journal

    Paul Krugman has explained this, which he calls one of the "cockroach ideas" that keeps coming back no matter how many times you flush them down the toilet:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/28/about-the-social-security-trust-fund/ [nytimes.com]

    Social Security is a government program supported by a dedicated tax, like highway maintenance. Now you can say that assigning a particular tax to a particular program is merely a fiction, but in fact such assignments have both legal and political force. If Ronald Reagan had said, back in the 1980s, “Let’s increase a regressive tax that falls mainly on the working class, while cutting taxes that fall mainly on much richer people,” he would have faced a political firestorm. But because the increase in the regressive payroll tax was recommended by the Greenspan Commission to support Social Security, it was politically in a different box – you might even call it a lockbox – from Reagan’s tax cuts.

    The date at which the trust fund will run out, according to Social Security Administration projections, has receded steadily into the future: 10 years ago it was 2029, now it’s 2042.

    But the privatizers won’t take yes for an answer when it comes to the sustainability of Social Security. Their answer to the pretty good numbers is to say that the trust fund is meaningless, because it’s invested in U.S. government bonds.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @12:15PM (#42989529) Homepage Journal

    Does anybody stop to ask why our per-capita spending on healthcare has skyrocketed and we spend more than other countries with better longevity?

    Lots of people have asked that question. If you read Slashdot, you'll see that most people here know that almost every other developed country in the world has a government-financed system of health care, and they spend half or less of what we spend on health care with about the same outcomes. (Switzerland, the country that has the system most like ours with private insurance, is the country with the second highest health care costs after us.)

    If you look around the developed world, to see what works and what doesn't work, you'll see that government-financed health care, including socialized medicine, works better than ours, and no country has come up with a free-market health care system that works.

    Obama had the chance to implement a single-payer system, or a single-payer option, and after $8 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry, he chose Romneycare instead. We could have saved a lot of money.

    Unfortunately I don't see any of the members of congress, the administration or any of the health insurance companies or the medical profession fixing this because they've been given a license to rape us all in terms of our costs and now with ACA they have a federally mandated right to steal from you.

    Don't blame me. I voted for Jill Stein.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @12:24PM (#42989577) Homepage Journal

    The greatest falsehood of our political debate is that the government can't do things more efficiently than private enterprise.

    I've compared industries where the government was working side by side with private enterprises, and it was straightforward to compare the results. For example, in the electric industry, there are private, federal, state and locally-owned power generation plants. Everybody in the industry agrees on the standards to judge them -- basically the percentage of downtime and cost per kilowatt-hour. The federally-run power plants, like the Tennessee Valley Authority, were consistently at the top of the list. Some of the private plants were at the top, some of them were at the bottom. The government did a good job.

    If you don't believe the government can do anything efficiently, then go out and look at the data, and see if it supports your hypothesis. When I look at the data, it doesn't.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @01:03PM (#42989797) Homepage Journal

    "a vast majority of people get considerably more out of Social Security and Medicare then they put in."

    Citations needed.

    I remember a few things from the news, down through the years. I remember congress dipping into Social Security for money. And again. And again.

    Social Security is something of a pyramid scheme, yes. It isn't truly sustainable. But, despite that, Social Security had surplus money, time and again. And, every time, Congress put their fingers into the surplus, and skimmed it off.

    Is it REALLY true, that the vast majority of Americans take out more than they pay in? Or, is it more likely that the vast majority of Americans don't LIVE long enough to collect what they have paid in? Maybe, just maybe, Social Security is going broke only because Congress can't control themselves, and they have spent our Social Security already!

  • by 1369IC (935113) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @01:46PM (#42990139)
    I work for a DoD R&D organization, and this is very true. We create a lot and we do it well and relatively cheaply.
  • by dj245 (732906) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @02:48PM (#42990513) Homepage

    If you think Social Security has problems, it is nothing compared to the coming problems faced by China's pension system. It has worse demographics and the retirement age is much lower (55 for women, 60 for men) than in the U.S.

    China's economy might be built on a house of cards, mostly in the form of housing, buildings, and infrastructure. I am not worried about their retirement plan collapsing their economy though. The personal savings rate in China is above 50%. The US's is around 6.5%, which is higher than it has been in almost 20 years. And the US savings rate is defined as "% of disposable income"- not gross income or net income. I don't know how China's is defined exactly but it doesn't matter- People in China are generally preparing for retirement, problematic life events, etc.

    Plus their basic pension plan pays about $108 dollars a year per person.

    Even if there are 500 million people in China on the plan (a staggering number, but possibly possible), it costs "only" $54 billion a year. In contrast, the US spent $615 billion [wikipedia.org] in 2008 on SS and has about 20% of the population receiving such benefits. Even when you consider GDP differences (which are narrowing fast), this isn't an unreasonable burden on China.

  • Re:No bias at all... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Solandri (704621) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @03:23PM (#42990723)
    IMHO the F-35 will go down in history as an object lesson in specificity vs general purpose. They looked at all these different types of aircraft with different roles and different parts, and the huge expense that came with warehousing all those spare parts and training maintenance people who could fix one plane but not another. They thought they could cut costs by building one plane which could fill all those roles while using the same parts. In other words they went from a bunch of planes each build to a specific role, to one plane built to fill all those roles as a cost-cutting measure on the maintenance. But they're now discovering that when you try to assign so many different roles to the same airframe, it increases cost on the design side. And I predict it'll increase it more than they save on the maintenance side.

The first version always gets thrown away.

Working...