By: Avery Kleinman
After years of missed deadlines and cost overruns, it’s difficult to take the Pentagon’s word when it comes to the F-35 fighter jet. Just a few weeks ago, the program once again fell short of expectations. The F-35 was supposed to make its star debut at an overseas international air show where government officials and defense contractors appraise new aviation technology. Instead, the jet was grounded due to an engine failure, unable to make the trans-Atlantic flight.
The New York Times used the incident as a jumping-off point for a criticism of the program in its Sunday opinion pages.
From the editorial:
Although a safety board is still analyzing the problem, the Pentagon and the contractors are confident it was a temporary glitch. But trouble has dogged the F-35 since development began 14 years ago. The program was supposed to prove that the Pentagon could build a technologically advanced weapon affordably, without huge delays. But the $400 billion price tag is 42 percent higher than the 2007 estimate. The cost per plane has doubled, and it will not go into full production until 2019, six years late.
…Common sense evaporates when it comes to big-ticket weapons, and members of Congress are being heavily lobbied by deep-pocketed defense contractors. In approving the 2015 defense bill recently, the House Appropriations Committee voted to buy 38 new F-35s, while the Senate committee agreed on 34, which is how many the Pentagon had requested.
Even budget hawks aren’t pushing to restrain or seriously reconsider the program. But a serious reappraisal is long overdue.
Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project On Government Oversight Winslow Wheeler is well-known for referring to the F-35 as “the jet that ate the Pentagon.” Read his most recent analysis of the plane here.