A pretty expensive Swiss Army knife

I carry a pocket knife everywhere I go; it was part of how I was brought up, and I find that it comes in handy all the time. If I have to leave it at home because I’m going somewhere with a security screening — a Braves game, the state Capitol, etc., it feels a little odd.

I do not, however, choose to carry a Swiss Army knife. Sure, it can do a lot more things than my simple pocketknife, from opening a bottle of wine to sawing through a small branch. But it’s bulky and uncomfortable, and it does nothing particularly well.

Kind of like the F-35 fighter jet, which is supposed to be the Swiss Army knife of the U.S. military.

The F-35 is intended to serve the U.S. Air Force in its standard version, the Navy in its carrier version and the Marines in a third version. It is designed to perform both as an air-to-air fighter — light, fast and quick maneuvering — and as a close-air support platform for infantry engaged with the enemy, which means it has to carry a big bomb-and-missile payload.

However, as an article in Foreign Policy points out, it does none of those things all that well, and it does them at a very high and increasing sticker price:

“How bad is it? A review of the F-35’s cost, schedule, and performance — three essential measures of any Pentagon program — shows the problems are fundamental and still growing.

First, with regard to cost — a particularly important factor in what politicians keep saying is an austere defense budget environment — the F-35 is simply unaffordable. Although the plane was originally billed as a low-cost solution, major cost increases have plagued the program throughout the last decade. Last year, Pentagon leadership told Congress the acquisition price had increased another 16 percent, from $328.3 billion to $379.4 billion for the 2,457 aircraft to be bought. Not to worry, however — they pledged to finally reverse the growth.

The result? This February, the price increased another 4 percent to $395.7 billion and then even further in April. Don’t expect the cost overruns to end there: The test program is only 20 percent complete, the Government Accountability Office has reported, and the toughest tests are yet to come. Overall, the program’s cost has grown 75 percent from its original 2001 estimate of $226.5 billion — and that was for a larger buy of 2,866 aircraft.

Hundreds of F-35s will be built before 2019, when initial testing is complete. The additional cost to engineer modifications to fix the inevitable deficiencies that will be uncovered is unknown, but it is sure to exceed the $534 million already known from tests so far. The total program unit cost for each individual F-35, now at $161 million, is only a temporary plateau. Expect yet another increase in early 2013, when a new round of budget restrictions is sure to hit the Pentagon, and the F-35 will take more hits in the form of reducing the numbers to be bought, thereby increasing the unit cost of each plane.

A final note on expense: The F-35 will actually cost multiples of the $395.7 billion cited above. That is the current estimate only to acquire it, not the full life-cycle cost to operate it. The current appraisal for operations and support is $1.1 trillion — making for a grand total of $1.5 trillion, or more than the annual GDP of Spain. And that estimate is wildly optimistic: It assumes the F-35 will only be 42 percent more expensive to operate than an F-16, but the F-35 is much more complex. The only other “fifth generation” aircraft, the F-22 from the same manufacturer, is in some respects less complex than the F-35, but in 2010, it cost 300 percent more to operate per hour than the F-16. To be very conservative, expect the F-35 to be twice the operating and support cost of the F-16.”

In response, some will argue that whatever the price, we must pay it, and they will make that claim while depicting themselves as defense hawks. But real life doesn’t work like that. The country has a finite amount of capital to invest in defense, and a dollar wasted in one area is a dollar that is not available to be spent in another, perhaps more effective area. Efficiency in military spending is no less important, and in many ways much more important, than in other government operations.

But that’s not how we tend to see things. The hugely excessive and inexcusable GSA convention in Las Vegas cost taxpayers a total of $823,000, and drew congressional hearings over the extravagance. The mindset that allowed such waste is intolerable, but the amount of money involved is a rounding error of a rounding error over a program such as the F-35, which draws little to no public attention.

– Jay Bookman

458 comments Add your comment

Some are just not that informed

May 2nd, 2012
10:37 pm

“Paul- referred to a large number of field grade and general officers as “Perfumed Princes.”

Those would be the obama supporters you see on CNN and MSNBC…”

“The man is not a field soldier; he’s more a CEO in uniform. Perhaps an efficient manager, but not a Patton-like leader. The troops call his sort “Perfumed Princes,” brass known for their micromanagement bias and slavish focus on “show over go” and covering their tails with fancy footwork. Unfortunately, today’s senior Army ranks are filled with such managers ”

http://www.hackworth.com/9aug99.html

http://www.hackworth.com/

Paul

May 2nd, 2012
10:39 pm

jKL2

I’ll take it you were making a funny, ’cause if that was serious it’s pretty off the mark.

DebbieDoRight - A Do Right Woman

May 2nd, 2012
10:40 pm

JKL2: If you needed money, would you rather get a check for $960 or $320? Quit telling me you want $320.

Hmmm let’s see I WANT THE $320!!! Sorry. :cry:

The Federal Government was never designed to be a charity. They need to quit wasting our money and get back to doing their job. All you are doing is hurting the people you claim you are trying to help

First off, oh dense one, I pay taxes and pay UI insurance so I’m helping to FUND that check I’m getting every month. And like 98.5% of the unemployed, I don’t want the money forever, I’d rather have a JOB; but I won’t turn down a check that I HELPED to fund! That’ll be crazy. Duh!

getalife

May 2nd, 2012
10:42 pm

“cause if that was serious it’s pretty off the mark.”

It’s jk the joke.

His party does nothing wrong and there was no collapse.

La la land.

Some are just not that informed

May 2nd, 2012
10:43 pm

Paul

The uninformed in many cases elect to be that way………

Keeps the thinking to a minimum and enables them to really believe that their rhetoric has merits

A percentage of people from of all political stripes seem to like it that way

Some are unable or unwilling to be challenged with anything that doesn’t fit their train of thought

Paul

May 2nd, 2012
10:46 pm

Orange 12

You’re not seriously making the case lives will be lost if we don’t believe a sales brochure for a product that does not exist?

DebbieDoRight - A Do Right Woman

May 2nd, 2012
10:48 pm

Well I’m out! Have a good nite everyone and if anyone sees scout, (since he’ll probably show afer I leave), could you please get him to answer this question:

“They ran a TV ad featuring the likenesses of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, while criticizing Cleland, a war vet and a triple amputee who SERVED his country and paid the price for it. Were you up in arms over that or does your indignation only extend to repuglicans?

Also, since I read your comments on Obama and the OBL killing, was it right for Chambliss to use OBL’s likeness AND to liken him to Clelland in a political ad/campaign? Think seriously about your comment to this one, I may have to go back to some of your posts if you try to rewrite your recent commentary history.

Orange 12

May 2nd, 2012
10:49 pm

Paul,

Believe in the product.

kayaker 71

May 2nd, 2012
10:51 pm

Some are not that informed,

Wonder what Hackworth would have thought of our present Commander in Chief?

Paul

May 2nd, 2012
10:51 pm

Some are

I think the idea of willingly challenging their own ideas is incomprehensible for some.

JKL2

May 2nd, 2012
10:54 pm

Debbie- Hmmm let’s see I WANT THE $320!!! Sorry

I’m running out of bullets trying to prove you have two brain cells to rub together. Help me, help you.

When that UI check you helped fund comes in the mail, would you rather get a check for $960 or $320? Liberals, like yourself, keep insisting it’s better to only get $320 because BP or some other cool company like Solyndra needs the other $640 more than you. Please explain to me where I’m going wrong?

Paul

May 2nd, 2012
10:56 pm

Orange 12

Oh, I do believe. That it is away over cost, is years behind schedule, has major structural problems, does not have vital components even begun to be designed

And that it cannot do what the original ad copy said it could do.

Some are just not that informed

May 2nd, 2012
10:57 pm

Kayaker

Not sure…………… and it really doesn’t matter to be honest

I was just showing JKL2 that his comment to Paul was either came out of his own political bias or not knowing the facts…..

Either way, what he said was incorrect and for some reason like a ghost he disappeared

Not a problem……. I was just glad to clear it up for him so he could reference the information in the future if he choice to do so

Some are just not that informed

May 2nd, 2012
10:58 pm

Until the next time

Likes sands through an hourglass…………..

JKL2

May 2nd, 2012
11:00 pm

Paul- I’ll take it you were making a funny, ’cause if that was serious it’s pretty off the mark

No. I’ll take my 15 years in combat arms to say I understand leadership. 90/10 rule applies.

It’s a shame the Democrats threw Hillary under the bus. I think the woman is pure evil but at least she would be a leader. obama wouldn’t know leadership unless his teleprompter told him so.

Orange 12

May 2nd, 2012
11:02 pm

Paul@10:56

No structural problems and all vital components purchased by the buyer (USA) are contained as they are being put togather as I type this at the Lockheed Martin plant Marietta.

Paul

May 2nd, 2012
11:04 pm

Okay JKL2

I’ll play.

Which Obama supporters on CNN/MSNBC who were field grade or general officers did Hackworth refer to as Perfumrd Princes?

Some are just not that informed

May 2nd, 2012
11:07 pm

Paul

May 2nd, 2012
11:08 pm

Orange 12

This is getting boring.

One of most recent were in wing root. If you don’t follow the program or read milestone reports at least discover ‘Google’.

Paul

May 2nd, 2012
11:08 pm

Orange 12

This is getting boring.

One of most recent were in wing root. If you don’t follow the program or read milestone reports at least discover ‘Google’.

JKL2

May 2nd, 2012
11:08 pm

not that informed- I was just showing JKL2 that his comment to Paul was either came out of his own political bias or not knowing the facts…..

I read Hackworth for years. Been in the trenches for more years than not. Go back to the couch, turn on Maddow, and wave your flag until you go to sleep. I’ll still be here protecting you from yourself tomorrow.

Thulsa Doom

May 2nd, 2012
11:09 pm

This may be one of the ones I agree with Jay on. Lets face it. We are going to have to make cuts everywhere including the military, if we are ever going to get the deficit down. I wonder if the military industrial complex and the dough it reaps in isn’t in play on this one.

Some are just not that informed

May 2nd, 2012
11:09 pm

Australia, too, is currently reconsidering plans to buy 12 F-35s, and the F-35’s structural problems, which emerged during recent flight tests, led the U.S. Department of Defense to issue a technical report in December 2011 that recommended slowing down U.S. acquisitions as well.

Some are just not that informed

May 2nd, 2012
11:11 pm

“I’ll still be here protecting you from yourself tomorrow.”

Code for………. I looked like a fool because I was uninformed and spoke of which I didn’t know

Blame you……. not me

JKL2

May 2nd, 2012
11:13 pm

Paul- Which Obama supporters on CNN/MSNBC who were field grade or general officers did Hackworth refer to as Perfumrd Princes?

Her’s one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wesley_Clark

And look: He know works as a lobbyist sucking up government money for his green energy company. Never saw that one coming…

Some are just not that informed

May 2nd, 2012
11:14 pm

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, meant to replace nearly every tactical warplane in the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, was already expected to cost $1 trillion dollars for development, production and maintenance over the next 50 years. Now that cost is expected to grow, owing to 13 different design flaws uncovered in the last two months by a hush-hush panel of five Pentagon experts. It could cost up to a billion dollars to fix the flaws on copies of the jet already in production, to say nothing of those yet to come.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/12/joint-strike-fighter-13-flaws/

JKL2

May 2nd, 2012
11:17 pm

not that informed- Code for……….

I got nothin’.

I guess I have to give you some credit for your appropriate name.

willydoit?

May 2nd, 2012
11:17 pm

“Perhaps you’d like to enlighten us on how ACA is similar in process, management or cost reviews like the F-35 program?”

What does the American Chiropractic Association have to with anything?

Thulsa Doom

May 2nd, 2012
11:21 pm

JKL2,

I knew there was something I didn’t like about Clark. A freaking lobbyist for ethanol? We’ve been over this on ethanol and both cons and libs should be against ethanol. It takes more energy to produce it and an end byproduct is all the fertilizers used to grow that much corn seeping into the gulf and creating a huge dead zone. How an educated man like Clark could support it is bewildering. That tells me the man is a sellout.

Some are just not that informed

May 2nd, 2012
11:21 pm

poor ole JKL2

called put on BS and doesn’t like it……………

suck it up

JKL2

May 2nd, 2012
11:22 pm

-“Perhaps you’d like to enlighten us on how ACA is similar in process, management or cost reviews like the F-35 program?”

Extremely bloated, over-budget government program that doesn’t solve anything it was designed to fix.

I know I play softball, but seriously? Stevie Wonder took that one deep.

Thulsa Doom

May 2nd, 2012
11:24 pm

“was already expected to cost $1 trillion dollars for development, production and maintenance over the next 50 years.”

Looked to me like this plane was a boondoggle. But 1 trillion over 50 years aint nothing.

Paul

May 2nd, 2012
11:26 pm

JKL2

You stopped reading Hack too soon. He revised his estimate of Clark for the better.

JKL2

May 2nd, 2012
11:26 pm

not that informed- called put on BS and doesn’t like it……………suck it up

I can tell you’re a true obama supporter. Accept defeat and declare victory for having “made the decision”. Watch out for that cliff your running off.

JKL2

May 2nd, 2012
11:29 pm

Paul- You stopped reading Hack too soon

Got me there. But after he died, I gave up for some reason…

Some are just not that informed

May 2nd, 2012
11:29 pm

Some are just not that informed

May 2nd, 2012
11:31 pm

Paul

May 2nd, 2012
11:36 pm

Jkl2

That was pretty funny -

JKL2

May 2nd, 2012
11:48 pm

not that informed- Just for you

From one of my favorite cartoons: I’m worried about the upcoming election. People aren’t as informed as they used to be. What happens if too many stupid people vote?

The Democrat wins.

The Thin Guy

May 3rd, 2012
1:02 am

USinUK

May 3rd, 2012
4:53 am

“Imagine what he could have done if he had an F-35 equipped with a Swiss Army knife.”

trimmed their cuticles?

Normal Free, Plain and Simple

May 3rd, 2012
6:28 am

Good morning all y’all…
I don’t get to play with the night crew much anymore so when I read this, this morning, all I could say was…

http://lolcats.icanhascheezburger.com/2012/04/13/funny-cat-pictures-whuuuuuuuuuuuuutttttttt/

Just another fine example of how the Military Industrial Complex will screw the tax payer…

Joel Edge

May 3rd, 2012
7:03 am

“and a dollar wasted in one area is a dollar that is not available to be spent in another, perhaps more effective area”
Good one, Jay. Maybe another on the need for efficiency in other areas of government? Or is this just a military thing?

Granny Godzilla - Union Thugette

May 3rd, 2012
7:20 am

Thankfully, with every 10 F-35’s Lockheed tosses in a used F-16 and 50 bucks in Kohls cash.

Mad Max

May 3rd, 2012
7:21 am

Another example of Government projecting future costs. And you wonder why we don’t believe in big government. I’m quite sure you can find the same type of wexamples in our social programs as well. Medicare anyone? But Obamacare is going to be different? Right!

Paul

May 3rd, 2012
7:21 am

Late 70s early 80s Pentagon awarded a contract to Ford Aerospace to develop a mobile anti-aircraft artillery system – Sgt York. It went way overbudget, couldn’t meet original specs and after spending a boatload of money and seeing nothing but continued development problems, SecDef Weinberger cancelled it.

I had the dubious honor of listening to a Ford Aerospace senior executive giving a self-serving presentation a couple years after cancellation. I asked him why, when the Soviets had a system (ZSU 23-4 (quad 23mm guns) that downed hundreds of American aircraft in Vietnam, Ford couldn’t develop an American system. He shrugged his shoulders and dismissed the question with ‘we didn’t put enough money into it.”

I knew incompetence when I saw it.

Few years ago I had a neighbor who was an engineer on the Osprey program. Asked him why all the development problems. He said ‘bad, reactive management.”

Why do you think the F-35’s a concurrent development program? (design, test, evaluate while at same time delivering units to the military). To protect it from being terminated.

It’s an election season, so nothing’s going to happen.

Pres Obama should kill the program Nov 7.

Normal Free, Plain and Simple

May 3rd, 2012
7:33 am

I wonder if a Psychiatrist would say that we have a persecution complex given we spend more on our military that the other industrialized countries do combined. Are we really that threatened or are we just boys with toys?

Paul

May 3rd, 2012
7:37 am

Mad Max

Are you saying the cost overrun is not a serious issue? That if the Pentagon had gone to Congress initially with the current cost figures that Congress would have approved the program at all?

Morning, Normal

In all seriousness, I think a good part of it is just the normal development of the next best of something. They want ‘the best’ even if it hasn’t been developed yet and what they have meets current and projected requirements. They’ll come up with all sorts of justifications.

Some have mentioned the F-16. That was not a service-supported program. It was an insurgency effort by a couple of pilots and a couple of engineers who did an effective end-run around the military and civilian power brokers to bring in a low-cost, highly effective, simple fighter.

Normal Free, Plain and Simple

May 3rd, 2012
7:40 am

Paul,
Good Morning! I remember the “Sgt York” System. There was talk of a possible Navy version once.

But I can tell you for a fact that the Navy’s 20mm Close In Weapons System…what we rudely referred to as “R2D2 with a hard on” was the best “last ditch” system I ever saw.
I have to admit that sometimes they get it right and produce a product that is worth the cost.

Granny Godzilla - Union Thugette

May 3rd, 2012
7:41 am

Mad Max

Do you support the GOP reported plans to back out of the cuts to the military budget they agreed to last year as part of the debt deal?

stands for decibels

May 3rd, 2012
7:44 am

I lost count, are we into triple digits on the “but OSAMAKKKARE!!!!111!!” posts, here?

Paul

May 3rd, 2012
7:47 am

Normal

They sure do. There are all kinds of great examples.

But this topic illustrates what happens when there are multiple billions of dollars, spread throughout many states with industry working with Congress. It makes it very difficult to kill. It becomes less about military necessity and national defense and more about the money.

That’s why I feel so passionate about such issues. These programs suck away dollars, effort and creativity that could be used to address other needs, both in and out of the military.

stands for decibels

May 3rd, 2012
7:47 am

oh dearies… weird SHEETZ

kayaker 71

May 3rd, 2012
7:47 am

Was privileged to see the new F-22 Raptor perform at the Warner Robbins Air Show Sunday. It flew part of its routine with a beautifully restored P-51 Mustang. After seeing the Raptor, I am not so sure why we need the F-35 but…….

Mary Elizabeth

May 3rd, 2012
7:48 am

Towncrier:

“You are probably the most dreamy poster on this blog, Mary – it almost seems like you are in a trance. We need to get you a ticket to Detroit. And a biography of LBJ to read on the trip.

Now, had the government used the money wisely (such as to help poor people actually own rather than inhabit their dwellings), then it might have been an entirely different outcome. Your fairy tale would have come true. And I, for one, would be right there with you celebrating it.”
=============================================================

Remember the “ownership” plan of Bush, and backed by some Democrats, Towncrier? What went wrong there? What you are not seeing – and that I do see (in spite of your limited opinion of me) – is that this nation deliberately changed course (by those who were interested in personal wealth more than society’s problems). The fact that there are no more dirt shacks in segregated south Georgia is a good thing. The fact that Detroit has inner city problems is a bad thing. The nation took its eye off the ball of service to the poor when it put its eye on personal greed and wealth. Again, remember the catastrophe of the “ownership” society that precipitated the “housing bubble” burst? That went south not because of LBJ’s War on Poverty, but because of the machinations of those in power like member os ALEC who have helped to turn our nation’s altruism into a nation that is used as a vehicle for self-centered service for personal gain for those who are shrewd and secretive.

I have to laugh at many comments of last evening where the whole debate centers on how much we have to cut government debt and entitlements because of “bad government.” Those in secretive power and wealth (the same ones who mocked Kerry and who don’t care about real patriotism but only about greed) have got most people just where they want them in them thinking, ie. cut government, government always bad, as reflected in the gist of comments last night. No reflection on how did we come to this – only thinking just as you have been programmed to think by those who wanted our nation turned to serve their power and wealth interests.

You need to read more Paul Krugman, Towncrier, and know what is really going on. I think you are the one in a dream world of propaganda. Those powerful ones deliberately ran up our deficit in the 2000s so that now we have so much debt and they banked on the fact that people like you would only see the surface and not catch on to what is really going on. You have been manipulated and you don’t even know it.

You are fighting the wrong battles and the wrong people. Look higher to wealth, power and the greed philosophy that has permeated the American psyche for 40 years. There is your problem. And the downfall of the 2000s financially is what was there crowning glory of their self-centered philosophy and of a greed gone wild.

And thanks for the personal insults. My opinion of you is that you just don’t look deeply enough to really “get it.”

Normal Free, Plain and Simple

May 3rd, 2012
7:48 am

Paul,
I agree 100%

Jay

May 3rd, 2012
7:49 am

“Some have mentioned the F-16. That was not a service-supported program. It was an insurgency effort by a couple of pilots and a couple of engineers who did an effective end-run around the military and civilian power brokers to bring in a low-cost, highly effective, simple fighter.”

Two words: John Boyd.

And sheets.

Paul

May 3rd, 2012
7:50 am

and Granny comes up with a new thread topic!

Republicans who say “I gave my word… but hey, what’s that got to do with anything?”

Nice one, Granny!

(pssst… you do know there’s a killer rejoinder to devastate that point, don’t you? It’s “well what about the time Obama….”).