2022 Is Almost Gone, But The F-35 Goes On

The recent omnibus bill passed by Congress and signed by Joe Biden contains hundreds of millions of dollars in pork and waste. Woke educational programs, ridiculous pseudo-science, and gifts for lawmakers riddle the legislation.

Republican House Leader and likely Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California was not happy about the omnibus bill. “For the first time in history, a bill in the House was passed without a physical quorum present—more people voted by proxy than in person,” McCarthy tweeted. “The omnibus will damage our country, & the blatant disregard for Article I, Section 5 of our Constitution will forever stain this Congress.” 

Republican Senator and fiscal hawk Rand Paul was also not amused. “It’s an abomination. It’s a no good, rotten way to run your government. [A] $6 trillion entity. And they want 24 hours to process this, and then they want to go forward,” Paul said.

The Wall Street Journal opined, “The federal government spent $501 billion last month, a $28 billion increase to a record high, while tax revenue dropped by $29 billion compared with last November, with the government collecting $252 billion.” Spend $500 billion and only take in $250 billion? Not smart math or smart policy. The bill, which funds the feds through September 2023, has $858 billion in funding for defense, $787 billion for domestic programs that are non-military, and almost $45 billion for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Nine House Republicans and 18 Senate Republicans bucked their party leadership and voted for the bill. The aid to Ukraine seemed to be uppermost in their minds. 

Regardless, the waste and boondoggles in the bill should have given them second thoughts about this piece of legislative larceny as written. But one program that deserved to be altered or scrapped years ago may be the worst offender of them all, the F-35 program.

I’ve written about this program at American Greatness for years now. To reiterate:

The aircraft has major issues with reliability and that makes the service life of the airplane considerably below first reports. For example, the U.S. Marines bought the F-35B variant. It was advertised to have an 8,000-hour service life. Realistically it now appears that it will be closer to 2,100 or lower. Maintenance? The goal of hitting 80 percent of field metrics standards is not being met. Known cyber issues with the plane remain unresolved. There are myriad other problems both large and small with the F-35.

That was written in 2020. The issue of the F-35 has yet to be resolved.

Upon completion, the F-35 will be a trillion-dollar program. Given the threats we face across the world, given the nature of warfare we’re seeing in Ukraine, and given the other aircraft in our inventory, what are the opportunity costs here? Opportunity costs are what other items you sacrifice that you could have purchased with the funds allocated for a program. How many enhanced anti-aircraft weapons could we have had for $1 trillion? They’re certainly doing a bang-up job over the skies of Kyiv. How many drones? They’ve made mincemeat out of Russian armor all over Ukraine. How many ships and heavy airlift planes to actually get our forces where they are supposed to be going, like the Taiwan Strait or the Korean Peninsula?

And what of the F-18E/F Super Hornet, the F-22 Raptor, and the F-15E Strike Eagle? Are they chopped liver? Those aircraft are at the heart of the U.S. inventory. Will a plane like the F-35, that can’t do its job, augment those aircraft, or, more likely, let them down in a pinch?

Those of us who are by nature hawks have no problem with proper spending on weapons systems. As a veteran of several years in Cold War-era U.S. Army Intelligence in then-West Germany, I note the growing aggression of the Soviets . . . er . . . Russians and Chinese designs on Taiwan are there for anyone to see. But we can’t just throw money at the Pentagon and at defense contractors and hope for the best. Even Dwight D. Eisenhower knew that, as evidenced by his warnings about the “military-industrial complex.”

When a system like the F-35 costs too much and then doesn’t deliver the goods, we have to ask ourselves, “Why the hell is it still going strong?” The usual answer presents itself: politics. 

F-35 production contracts and their attendant jobs are spread over several politically important states, thus drawing the positive attention of House and Senate members from both parties. When criticism of their support for this program comes up, they just wrap themselves in the flag and mutter patriotic generalities.

One highly placed Department of Defense insider that we talked to has a different take, “From where I stand, this plane is a lemon that can’t do the job and is a budget buster. But the program has taken on a life of its own, though it should have been killed at least five years ago. Welcome to D.C.”

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About David Kamioner

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army intelligence, serving with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked as a political consultant for over 15 years and ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia for over four years. He is a public relations consultant in Washington, D.C. and lives in Annapolis, MD.

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