Economy

Norm Singleton: Are Defense Contractors Ripping off the Taxpayer?

By Norm Singleton:

President Donald J. Trump promised to save billions of wasted tax dollars being spent at the Pentagon just before he was sworn into office. Yet, Yahoo reported on October 1, 2019, that “Trump tweeted ‘billions of dollars’ would be saved on military contracts. Then the Pentagon fired the official doing that.”  There is waste going on at the Pentagon today and the poster child for government squandering the taxpayer dollars is the F-35 fighter jet.

Before being sworn in, President Trump promised to save money on out of control programs like the F-35 program. On December 12, 2016, Trump tweeted, “The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.” Trump was right to target this expensive program for ways to cut spending and reel in the legendary cost over runs in this program.  One problem is that the guy put in charge of saving taxpayer dollars on Pentagon contracting, Shay Assad, was fired for trying to control spending.

By all reports, Assad was doing a good job. Yahoo reported, “Assad had already built a reputation as the Department of Defense’s toughest contract negotiator, having spent more than a decade battling defense companies on behalf of taxpayers, trying to get the prices down on skyrocketing weapons costs. Over the course of his career, he has been decorated with a panoply of awards from the Pentagon for his work, and praised for saving the government billions of dollars. A 2016 Politico profile described Assad, known for his dogged campaigns to force defense industry companies to justify their costs, as ‘the most hated man in the Pentagon.’” He had brought down the cost of the C-17 transport aircraft and the F/A-18 fighter jet and is credited with saving the taxpayers billions, yet there are other programs in need of audits and cuts.

One program in dire need of study is the one putting the taxpayers on the hook for $1.5 trillion over the lifetime of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters program. Popular Mechanics reported on July 27, 2018, “the development of the F-35 has been a mess by any measurement. There are numerous reasons, but they all come back to what F-35 critics would call the jet's original sin: the Pentagon's attempt to make a one-size-fits-all warplane, a Joint Strike Fighter.” The report characterized the jet as “a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none,” because of the lack of flights to prove the worth of the program.

The supporters of piling more taxpayer One need to look no further than the trillions spent on  the endless Afghanistan war to see an example of spending that has not made us any safer. Back in the early 90s, a plan was put forth for the F-35 stealth fighter jet that was supposed to be the answer to all of our air defense threats.  It is an example of a long range plan that has not real purpose other than to please the defense industry. The other problem is if you spend over one trillion on a special air craft, you will need to use that aircraft to justify all the cash you spent.

One other problem is that Congress is aiding the defense industry by pushing for even more F-35s. Congress keeps boosting purchases of the troubled F-35, even though the Pentagon has not requested more of that aircraft. Politico reported that “the House Armed Services Committee is proposing yet another boost in purchases of F-35 fighters in its version of annual defense policy legislation. The so-called chairman's mark of the National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 2500 (116),would authorize 90 total Lockheed Martin F-35s, a dozen more than the Pentagon requested, committee aides said. That total includes 60 of the Air Force F-35A models, 10 Marine F-35Bs and 20 carrier-based F-35C variants. Those match the number of F-35s the House Appropriations Committee has proposed funding in annual defense spending legislation.”  This overspending is a problem at the Pentagon and with Members of Congress pushing for more spending on a troubled program.

Taxpayers are getting the short end of the stick with this program. They pay while the defense industry pads the contracts and the revolving door between the defense industry and the Pentagon continues. The defense spending needs to be cut and an audit of the Pentagon is way overdue in order to provide some confidence to taxpayers that they are not merely enriching the defense industry to the detriment of the taxpayer and national security.

Norm Singleton is a staffer for the Campaign for Liberty and former staffer for Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

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