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New Video: The Jet that Ate the Pentagon

The Pentagon’s budget is being consumed by a single gigantic weapons system that continues to miss performance metrics while facing a decade of delay and costing the U.S. taxpayer nearly $1.5 trillion. The story of how the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter came to dominate the Pentagon’s budget is one of overly ambitious goals, unusual development, an army of lobbyists and an emphasis on job creation. It’s a complex story, but Brave New Films interviewed a range of experts, including POGO’s Winslow Wheeler, to help explain how the F-35 got to be so big and so bad.

To learn more, check out the new site dedicated to news about the F-35.

By: Andre Francisco
Online Producer, POGO

andre francisco Andre Francisco is the Online Producer for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Budget, Joint Strike Fighter, DOD Oversight, Defense, Waste, Wasteful Defense Spending

Authors: Andre Francisco

Submitted by Amicus Curiae at: July 6, 2014
To Defense: I think we are going to have 150 F-35s very soon, not zero. I share your skepticism about the motivations of POGO. They are against everything. However, the F-35 seems to me the worst financially performing program I have ever seen. There are many airframe projects on the scrap heap that had much more technical and financial success, and yet? Since you brought up the F-22, I feel free to comment on that too. The F-22 was a long, over budget, grind also, but at the time of termination, it was a known entity. Costs were high, but so was performance. Building them faster would have helped with the unit cost, but that was not seriously proposed. Now it is obvious that even the simpler F-35 A model will not cost half an F-22 as promised, and the B and C models will be a good deal more than an F-22 was. How does the F-35 fulfill the requirement of reconstituting the air forces at reasonable cost? It can't, so the quantity has to be reduced, to say, 1000 units of mixed models. So, because the F-35 concept was always BS, but it got sold anyway, the air forces are going to be 1/3 the size intended and forced to use a jet that has less than stellar performance in many areas. We need better decision makers. A monkey could do better than these guys.
Submitted by Amicus Curiae at: July 6, 2014
There is plenty of auditing going on.It does not make any sense to say that a project like the F-35 can not be "audited". I say it can, and is, audited on a daily basis using real time financial software and data that is updated daily. Everyone that is working the program uses a charge number system that indicates what task is being worked. All costs to subcontractors are known to the penny. What are these guys talking about? Blame it on the system? I say it again, search for the guilty, and make them pay. If the product is not useful compared to its cost, then don't buy it. Easy peasy.
Submitted by Amicus Curiae at: July 6, 2014
It is undeniable that there is intrigue in the procurement of defense products. I have a suggestion. If you claim there is fraud and waste, then name names. Blaming a contactor's marketing plan because it is successful at selling to the customer is kind of weak. All waste could be avoided by accountability in Congress for providing the money, and accountability in the Pentagon for decisions on what to buy. Tell me who the are the people who made these bad decisions, so I can replace them with someone else. Disgrace the bad guys, or we will get more of it.
Submitted by patsijean at: May 30, 2014
This is not the first time I've heard about how bad the F35 is, but a failure of the producers of the video is that they do not specify EXACTLY what is wrong with the F35. What types of things actually fail? Does it crash? How often does the fighter have to be grounded for more than routine maintenance?
Submitted by Andre Francisco at: March 10, 2014
Hello Jmac and scottman, The problems with the F-35 are long and complicated. A video is not the best place for all the details. If you'd like to read more about why the F-35 is a bad deal for the military and for taxpayers you can see our previous writing here and additional coverage by the Straus Military Reform Project here
Submitted by Jmac at: March 7, 2014
Lions & Tigers & Bears oh my! They pulled out every alarmist line of rhetoric in this clip while managing to not substantiate a signal one of them. The JSF is a game changer and the future of air superiority is resting on its success. If these talking heads are so right why are countries all over the planet lining up to buy these things? Fielding world class technology is indeed expensive. I heard no mention of the more cost effective alternative. Oh wait, that's because there is none.
Submitted by scottman at: February 22, 2014
While I'm all in favor of cutting the F-35 this video did a poor job of making the case. There were many general statements made but very few specifics. If I'm to go forward and want my representatives to come out against it I need better info then the, "it's bad", statements shown in this video. Specifics win arguments, not the bland statements in this video. For the record, I believe the day of the manned air superiority fighter is coming to an end and the F-35 program is just an ill-conceived effort to placate Lockheed and senior military personnel.
Submitted by Itzmagic at: February 11, 2014
Audit the military? That's your magic answer to all the huge cost over runs is to audit the military? The unaccounted amount right now is right around a billion, so even if all of that was going into some general's pocket, that's the most you'd save. You don't think more than a billion dollars is being wasted? You must live in Denver.
Submitted by BamaBubba at: February 8, 2014
A much better audit process needs to be implemented on all military projects. The whole military complex seems to be one bottomless boondoggle. The first financial priority is to fully audit the military top to bottom.
Submitted by Dockrat13 at: February 8, 2014
With a 2 to 1 ratio, and all the money that greases the wheels (big pentagon wheels) You would think those that are so keen to reduce the budget, and create jobs would figure out the corruption, and fix it. But of course who do they work for? You and me?
Submitted by Youlyseas at: February 8, 2014
What's kuel is we'll be able to buy Chinese stealth fighters at a fraction of the price!
Submitted by ivanczar at: February 8, 2014
Wow , outrageous , runaway wasteful , absurd and frightening ETC... ETC... ETC... !!!
Submitted by HeyJoe at: February 8, 2014
Allowing profligate waste to occur is bad for our country and our fighting forces. I'd rather fight the Pentagon and Congress over wasting our tax money than give up and say, "Eh. It happens."
Submitted by Dfens at: February 6, 2014
Sure, let's cancel this program after we've already spend nearly $200 billion on development, that way we can add 0 F-35's to our fleet of 174 F-22's. That should make for a real successful 21st Century fighting force. But clearly the next big fighter program will cost less and be more effective, right? I mean, that's what POGO told us when they wanted the F-22 cancelled so we could buy more of these F-35s at the price POGO was touting as $35 million each (that wouldn't even buy tires for the F-35 now).

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