It may sound like a fairy tale, but once upon a time the federal government operated in the black, running surpluses that allowed the Department of Defense (DoD) to make significant investments in experimental or future replacement equipment and weapon systems, without drawbacks, oversight or taxpayer scrutiny. Unfortunately, the clock has struck midnight and the budgetary fairy tale is long over.
There is no question that investing in our nation is important. However, we are no longer living in the lap of defense spending luxury and taxpayers aren’t willing to turn a blind eye to wasting billions of dollars on unnecessary programs. And, regardless of the financial situation of the country, it makes no sense to continue to use taxpayer money on outdated and severely flawed programs.
According to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) defense acquisitions report, the Pentagon is set to spend $1.5 trillion to acquire 85 separate weapons programs in the coming years. The GAO also estimates that those 85 programs will experience a projected $411 billion in cost growth and average delays of 27 months.
When it comes to consensus in Washington, there is often little. However, in a time where budget restraint should be the norm, billions of dollars of wasteful defense spending is not something either Republicans or Democrats are able to ignore. Realizing the federal government has been getting away with highway robbery of taxpayers, Representatives Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) are leading the charge to completely overhaul defense acquisitions. It’s time the Pentagon stop gambling billions of dollars on fantasy defense programs that will have little to no real impact on improving the systems our warfighters need to meet today’s threats, and start taking real reform seriously.
Programs like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have become one of our nation’s most recent and most expensive acquisition failures. The Pentagon estimates it could spend $396 billion—equivalent to the GDP of Sweden—to purchase 2,456 of these aircrafts by the late 2030s. This supposedly stealthy replacement is louder than today’s fighter jets and the F-35’s software and systems development continues to fall gravely behind schedule. What started out as a joint effort by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps to develop an aircraft they can all use and that would reduce development costs, duplicative processes development and time has become nothing more than a waste of billions on what was great in theory. However, the DoD could have updated the F-16, the F/A-18 and the AV-8B, some of the most capable jets in the world, and saved taxpayers $4.5 billion in the current fiscal year alone.