Tuesday, October 18, 2011

F-35 Too expensive?

The American people have, to a large extent, learned well the lessons about the cost that extreme isolationism can exact from a nation. After World War II exposed the price of passivity toward national defense, the United States has rarely lowered its guard.
But now, after two wars paid for on credit, our nation is at a point where we simply cannot afford to keep spending the same kinds of money on defense as we have over the past half-century.
Big-ticket items like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter must be re-examined to make sure they are necessary to our national security, and not simply an expensive job-creation program in disguise.
While the original designs of the Air Force's current F-16 Falcon and Navy and Marine Corps' F/A-18 Hornet are both 30 to 40 years old, they remain among the very best air-superiority platforms flying today. Other nations continue to purchase them, and any potential foes we might have are nowhere close to having anything as good as, much less better than, these existing planes.
Further, the airframe and engines of a modern jet fighter are only part of their effectiveness as a weapons platform. The electronic brains, or avionics, are an increasingly important part of how lethal a combat plane can be ---- and on that score, American fighter planes are absolutely unmatched.
Given all this, the impetus to spend up to $1 trillion replacing them over the coming decades is unclear. When the F-35 program is questioned by those wondering how the military can absorb billions in budget cuts with programs like this still on track, too much of the answer seems to lie embedded in how many jobs would be created in building the F-35.
That's neither a good reason for weapons procurement nor an economically sound one. If we don't buy F-35s, and instead buy additional and far-less-expensive F-16s and F/A-18s, those jobs will still be there on those assembly lines.
And if we bankrupt ourselves buying these planes, which seems to be overkill given the present threats facing us, it's hard to see how that furthers the goal of national security.
There are many areas of military spending to be looked at in coming months, from staffing Cold War outposts in Europe and Asia to providing expensive aid to nondemocratic nations that share neither our values nor our security goals.
Regardless of how many of those bear fruit, the F-35 ought to be looked at by Congress with an eye not to employment figures, but rather by a formula measuring mission importance vs. cost.

North County Times and The Californian opinion staff | Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 12:00 am 

Read more: http://www.nctimes.com/news/opinion/editorial/article_bb2bf5ce-ac23-512b-b97d-3f38f6e64238.html#ixzz1b9hPeoPr