Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ground the F-35 Forever: Spending on the overdue plane is totally out of control

The F-35 “Lightning” is in the news again. This is the joint development program to produce a new fighter aircraft, in three different variants, for the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps. The Pentagon grounded the planes recently after an engine caught fire as one of the planes prepared for takeoff at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The pilot was able to safely exit the aircraft, but unexplained engine fires on a single-engine aircraft like the F-35 demand immediate attention, thus leading to the grounding.

Safety hazards with military aircraft are a serious matter, and the F-35 is certainly not the first aircraft to have troubles in the development process. But the F-35 is on track to be the most expensive weapons system in Pentagon history.

This recent incident is just another reason why Congress should consider a true “grounding” of the aircraft. The only way that can happen is if Congress starts to pull up on the purse strings and stops spending money on it. Unfortunately, recent reporting suggests that lawmakers are simply shrugging off this problem as typical of a major development program.

That may be. In fact, it probably is. And that’s why taxpayers should pay more attention to how the Pentagon develops weapon systems. The F-35 is just the latest poster child of a development program gone horribly astray. The problem is significant enough for the Government Accountability Office to have an annual report of at-risk Pentagon development programs. Number one on the list in 2013? The F-35.

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