BY JOSH MERLO
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, as he laid down his executive powers in 1961, gave a memorable farewell address. He warned the American people: “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience… Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” As the turmoil associated with the debt limit continues, now seems the ideal time to bring up the bloated, overfunded, dysfunctional, failing F-35 program.
To placate the howls of outrage that will inevitably come, this is not a mindless assault on the principles of national defense and security. Rather, this is a pointed jab at one of the most intolerable results of the infamous military-industrial complex: unguided, blank-check expenditures that fund monopolistic contractors with little return for the tax-payers money.
As an example, the F-35. Originally touted as the one fighter that would replace literally every single other aging plane in the combined forces’ entire repertoire, it has become nothing more than a prototype of how not to build the next-generation fighter. From production delays to plants failing routine inspections, from unrealistic technology expectations to major design flaws, from missed schedules to expanded budgetary needs, the Lighting has seen it all. And yet the bills keep flooding in, and, amazingly, the planes still never come out.
Lockheed-Martin has a chokehold on the U.S., as it has sole ownership of the next generation of combat aircraft. It, thus far, has been given carte blanche by the various supporters of the program. Checks and balances within the ranks of the F-35’s braintrust are lacking. Oversight is non-present. Even quality control has been left at the wayside as everyone tries to throw their own special design, gadget, gizmo, doodad, or what’s-it-called into the plane itself.
The actual need of a workable air-superiority vehicle has been abandoned in favor of paying increasingly wanton private interests. This is what President Eisenhower was afraid of, what he cautioned America against so many years ago.
The F-35, if it were a private company’s project, would long ago have been shelved, massively reorganized, or simply terminated. Its track-record is, needless-to-say, spotted. Why is the U.S. still funneling money into what has been a developmental black hole? Want to start working against the deficit? Start by eliminating waste. It is an old, well-used refrain, but it is applicable.
Make the Department of Defense accountable for how it spends its money. Make the armed forces accountable for the money they receive. Ensure that pet projects are not the main consumers of tax dollars. If there is to be fiscal responsibility, it must be on both sides of the aisle. “Defaulting will destroy our economy!” cry the Republicans. Why don’t they take the advice of one of their own? Rein in the military-industrial complex and all its excesses. It will not be all that is needed to solve the deficit crisis, but it will help.