Slack budgeting at Defense
June 7, 2012
For a reminder of how much money is sloshing around within the Defense Department, read the Senate Armed Services Committee’s 514-page report on the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill, which was released Tuesday.
Despite complaints about belt tightening — and God forbid any further reductions come from across-the-board cuts mandated by sequestration — the committee found hundreds of millions of dollars to move around from one program to another in approving $525.8 billion for the department’s core budget. By the way, that is $500 million above President Obama’s request, although the panel made up part of that by cutting $300 million from the separate $88.5 billion requested for overseas operations such as the fighting in Afghanistan.
Let’s start with cost overruns. Does any other branch of government get away with having its programs balloon the way Pentagon weapons systems do, with no end in sight?
The best example is the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, the planned 2,443 fifth-generation stealth fighter-bombers that the country could be buying for the next 20 years. In the push to get the first planes, there was — according to the project’s executive officer quoted in the report — a “miscalculation.” That miscalculation was concurrency — the overlap between developing advanced, complex avionics and computer systems for the F-35 and testing them while at the same time beginning production. It has cost taxpayers an additional $7.9 billion and delayed overall development by almost three years.