America’s military procurement machine may be the single most successful system of wealth transfer ever devised — moving tens of billions of dollars every year from ordinary taxpayers into the pockets of big defense contractors and their allies in Congress. But as a provider of working equipment to defend the United States against realistic threats, it is becoming more and more dysfunctional with every passing year.
Current administration plans call for spending a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to “modernize” America’s nuclear arsenal to fight a pointless war that would decimate major centers of civilization across the globe. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Learning to Love — and Use — the Bomb”]
At the same time, the Pentagon is also asking for even greater sums to modernize conventional weapons systems that are better suited to East-West conflict scenarios of the 1950s than to today’s skirmishes with insurgents in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
Spending on major military acquisition programs is projected to soar 23 percent, after adjusting for inflation, from fiscal year 2015 to 2022. Worse yet, Congress and the administration are spending much of that money on weapons that don’t even work as advertised.
One of the biggest drivers of new procurement spending today is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet. The plane is too expensive and sophisticated for simple bombing runs in Syria or Afghanistan, but too crippled to use in dogfights against Russia’s or China’s most advanced fighters. It’s ideal for one purpose only: With a total projected program cost of more than $1 trillion, this program will keep Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors in 46 states afloat for at least the next two decades.
The F-35 program was awarded more than $12 billion in the omnibus spending bill that passed Congress in December for fiscal year 2016. That money is slated to buy 68 planes, up from 44 purchased in fiscal 2015. Over the entire life of the program, the Pentagon expects to acquire more than 2,400 jets.