The election is over, or is it? Recounts and court challenges remain as “President-elect Biden” is already naming cabinet members. If Joe Biden takes office in January, the former Vice President will face many challenges. Whether it’s dealing with coronavirus or handling foreign policy, we can boil his job down to one phrase: protect the United States.
Here’s one way he can do that. I told the same thing to President Trump, stop throwing money out the F-35 window! If he can save money in one area, there will be more available to invest in other areas. Biden should start by ending wasteful defense projects that aren’t actually making America safer. He should look no further than the F-35. The plane, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is already the most expensive weapon system in U.S. history and it is only getting more expensive.
“The Pentagon’s five-year budget plan for the F-35 falls short by as much as $10 billion, the military’s independent cost analysis unit has concluded, a new indication that the complex fighter jet may be too costly to operate and maintain,” Bloomberg reported in September.
Cost overruns aren’t a new problem, in fact they are more like the norm in Washington DC but they don’t have to be. The F-35 has been busting budgets since it was drawn up. “In 2014, the GAO found that the F-35 fleet would have operating costs 79 percent higher than the aircraft it was to replace. A 2015 Pentagon Selected Acquisition Report said that program costs had increased 43 percent from 2001, including unit cost (up 68 percent),” Popular Mechanics reported. Those numbers are staggering, but they are only the horrible beginning of the F-35 nightmare. The problems with the F-35 only increase exponentially as you move forward in time.
As the Biden administration takes over in 2021, this is no longer a question about how much it costs to buy the plane. It’s a question about how much it costs to fly the plane. It’s as if you spent $30,000 for a new car, and as you signed the papers were told it would cost another $30,000 just to keep the car running for the next month or so.
The Pentagon launched the program in the 1990s, hoping it could save money through “concurrency,” building new planes even as it was testing the models that had already been produced. In reality, this ended up adding to costs, as contractors had to keep going back and fixing problems. By 2013, the Pentagon needed to pay $1.7 billion just to retrofit existing planes. That’s to say nothing about the weapon system that was supposed to go into the plane but as fate would have it simply didn’t work. The F-35 is a dumpster fire burning up billions upon billions with no end in sight.
Now the military needs to spend even more just to keep the F-35 aloft.
“The cost of sustaining the planes — estimated at about $1.2 trillion over 66 years — is what most worries military officials and lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee panel,” Bloomberg reported this year.
This summer, the House of Representatives heard testimony that the plane’s on-the-ground support system isn’t in place. Defense News covered the hearing. The message is loud and clear, everything’s failing on the F-35. Not just one system is the problem, it is systemic, including “planned depots that have yet to stand up, an immature supply base, the once-touted, now-troubled Autonomic Logistic Information System, or ALIS, used to track and order parts,” Scott Cooper writes. “It won’t matter how well the F-35 can penetrate enemy air defenses if the sorties can’t be generated. Moreover, flat budgets in the foreseeable future mean that throwing money at the problem is not an option.”
It’s not as if the cost of the F-35 is a new problem. Almost exactly four years ago, before the current administration even took office, Donald Trump Tweeted that: “The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.” I wish that tweet would have been followed up with action, but instead he ended up making a deal with the contractor to pay a price that was “double the original budget.”
Who knows what happened there? Well now it is apparently Biden’s turn. What will a President Biden do when it comes to the F-35? It’s time. He should shut down the F-35, save money and improve defense. Spend those billions on some lean mean new flying machines or literally anything that has a good ROI(Return on Investment), because that is the one the thing the F-35 has none of. If Biden were to scrap the F-35 that would be a fantastic way to start on his new job protecting the United States.