Government FAIL of the day: The $1.5 Trillion ‘mistake’

Maybe some people when they hear the term ‘government waste’ think of bureaucrats ordering more office supplies than they really need, or requiring a bit too much useless paperwork. Indeed, that’s the impression one might form after seeing the proposals of the four finalists for the White House’s SAVE Awards for ideas on reducing government waste. For instance, bureaucrat James Szender of the Department of the Interior made the White House’s Final Four with the following idea.

A written transcript of Federal meetings or hearings is often required. James from the Department of the Interior proposes, whenever possible, using digital equipment for transcripts instead of hiring a court reporter, as using digital transcription is significantly less expensive than getting a certified court reporter to attend, record, and transcribe the proceedings.

Ha ha, silly bureaucrats hiring a court reporter when they could just turn on a recording device! Still, if that’s one of the most wasteful things the government does, then government waste isn’t really a huge deal. And maybe that’s the impression the political class would like to leave us with.

Unfortunately, the The Fiscal Times reminds us that government waste is indeed massive, and a serious blow to the nation’s wealth. The story concerns the Pentagon’s “next generation” fighter jet, the F-35, which increasingly looks like a “$1.5 trillion mistake.” That’s trillion with a ‘t’. Apparently, for 21st century government, trillion is the new billion.

For the second time in two months, test flights of the F-35 have been grounded due to engine trouble, and the plane on the whole seems to be a lemon.

[A]s problems mount, there are growing concerns that the F-35 will never fly a combat mission….The Pentagon ordered nearly 2,500 planes for $382 billion, or fifty percent more than the original cost.

As the price soared, the Pentagon in 2010 deemed the program “too big to fail.” Yet it continues to fall short. Recent engine troubles are just the latest in a series of mechanical failures. A pilot was killed when oxygen to the cabin was cut off. The aircraft are running too hot, limiting their ability to operate in warm environments.

The original delivery date was supposed to be 2010. Then it was delayed until 2012. Now, it’s not expected to be in service until 2019.

But when they are put into active use, they have multiple tactical problems. They don’t have a long range, so they need to be close to the field of battle. They lack the weapons systems to adequately support ground forces. And they’re at a disadvantage in a dogfight because of limited turning capability.

The article notes that the Pentagon commissioned the F-35 during the Clinton presidency, but the plane won’t enter service until at least 2019. So that means it takes Lockheed Martin two decades to deliver the aircraft. Here at Yet, Freedom!, we are no experts on combat aircraft or military procurement, but two decades? We know the analogy isn’t perfect, but back during WWII, the legendary P-51 Mustang was commissioned in 1940 and entered service in 1942. Or consider the time scale of product development in the private sector.  Does it take Apple two decades to bring a new product to market?

In any event, the cost to taxpayers–for a fighter that doesn’t work–is projected to reach up to $1.5 trillion. The figure is mind-blowing and difficult to conceptualize. To provide perspective, consider dividing the amount by $200,000, the cost of a medium-sized house. The result is 7.5 million homes. Using the average of approximately 2.5 persons per household results in enough homes for 18.75 million people, a bit more than the populations of Ohio and Indiana combined. If a foreign power caused that much destruction of our infrastructure it would be considered a devastating act of war. But that is what the Pentagon is effectively doing to our own country.

Here’s our proposal for next year’s SAVE Awards.

Cancel the F-35, and don’t spend another penny on it. Bring a class-action lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers against Lockheed Martin for malfeasance.

Think we’ll make the White House’s Final Four?