Joshua B. Bolten
Director, Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20503
Dear Mr. Bolten:
We commend you for your recent directive requiring formal Pentagon review of the F/A-22 Raptor and Comanche helicopter programs with an eye toward cutting or eliminating these overpriced and unneeded weapons systems. In recent years, POGO has been closely monitoring these two programs because we believe both the F/A-22 and Comanche are bad buys for the taxpayers and are not being developed in the best interest of U.S. fighting men and women.
The F/A-22 tactical fighter program is now expected to cost over $71.7 billion. By latest estimates, the per-aircraft cost of the F/A-22 has climbed to $257.5 million and is expected to continue to rise in upcoming months. Originally, the Air Force planned to purchase 750 of the fighters, but now can only afford to buy 276 aircraft, and there are whispers that the number will soon fall to roughly 200. This is disconcerting in light of the fact that 200 new F/A-22 fighters will hardly replace some current 1,600 fighters in the active Air Force fleet.
This path toward what some have called "unilateral disarmament" was the focus of a quip once made by former army undersecretary and Lockheed Martin chief executive, Norman Augustine. "In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft," Augustine said in 1983. "This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3-1/2 days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day."
Likewise, the Comanche, now in its sixth major program restructuring, has experienced dogged funding problems, changing requirements, and technology challenges that have made it one of the General Accounting Office's poster children for bad weapons development. When first conceived in 1983, the Army planned to purchase more than 5,000 of the reconnaissance helicopters at a cost of $12.1 million a copy. Recent estimates now call for the planned purchase of only 650 Comanche helicopters at an acquisition cost of $58.9 million each.
We applaud your admirable goal in requesting the program studies - to weed out unneeded, ineffective and overpriced weapons systems. We urge you to remain steadfast in your fight to stop the Pentagon from throwing good money after bad. We also encourage you to remember that the budget decisions you make today will have implications for our fighting men and women for decades to come.