Last week, the House Armed Services Committee on Tactical Air and Land Forces and Readiness questioned fat cat defense contractors about the $1.7 trillion dollar money pit known as Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The jet’s exorbitant price tag is no reflection of its quality, problems include “structural cracks to cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Twenty years in development — and it still can’t shoot straight and is rarely ready to fly when it is needed.”
Described as “acquisition malpractice,” the jet that suffers from more than 900 design flaws isn’t going anywhere. Projects like this, subsidized by the American taxpayer, are a perfect example of the government’s incestuous relationship with big corporations. Employees vacillate between working for the federal government and working in the private sector at a job designed to take advantage of access and money in the familiar federal government machine. Evidence of this system is apparent as 128 retired senior military officials signed a letter supporting the F-35 program and almost half failed to reveal their financial interest.
Where do senior military officials go after they leave the service? They cash in working for big defense contractors like Lockheed Martin. And how do they gain favor with the corporate fat cats? By dishing out some favors while inside the government. And this system isn’t restricted to the Pentagon. Other government officials seek their payday at the corporations they previously regulated in the fedgov. Banks, tech companies, and retailers all have former government employees seasoned on gaming the government goody bag machine.
Monstrous projects like the F-35 are presented on a silver platter to politicians desperate for props to display before their constituents. Lockheed Martin’s website showcases “the F-35 program teams with nearly 1,900 U.S. suppliers—including more than 1,000 small business suppliers—in 45 states and Puerto Rico to produce thousands of aircraft components.” What’s not to love about jobs and business opportunities for the voters?
The casualties of public-private conveyor belt, other than those dependent on the reliability of the F-35 jet, are the taxpayers. Unless the system is reformed to keep federal employees from exploiting their government service with profitable contracts and corporate rewards, the taxpayer will continue to be robbed of their hard-earned money.