Like the F-35, US Latest and Most Expensive Aircraft Carrier Doesn’t Work

Why does the US spend more on its military than the next largest several countries combined? One reason is that the military budget has far less to do with protecting the United States than it does to further enriching well-connected military contractors. Politicians are under pressure to push weapons systems, that in turn produce “jobs” for their districts. Remember, the disastrous F-35 fighter is built in 45 states and several foreign countries. This doesn’t happen by accident.

As former Pentagon analyst and keen observer Chuck Spinney points out, when it comes to the military budget, it’s all about enormously expensive, high-tech weapons systems that don’t usually work. Little things like readiness and force strength take a back-seat. High-tech pays off well, with shiny things and bells and whistles impressing those who sign off on big contracts. Actually giving troops useful tools to win wars is much less exciting (and profitable).

Well “Spinney’s rule” has struck again. The USS Gerald R. Ford, supposed to be the Pentagon’s largest and most advanced aircraft carrier, is two years late for delivery, $2.9 billion over budget, and is “not fit for combat.” It is the most expensive warship ever built, coming in at $12.9 billion (so far). But it can’t launch and recover aircraft, can’t mount a defense, and can’t transport bombs around the ship. In other words, the core functions of an aircraft carrier cannot be met by this particular, gold-plated monstrosity.

The Pentagon is hoping that it will be fixed and delivered before this November, but it is probably not wise to hold one’s breath.

Beltway think tanks drive policy toward engaging in more foreign conflicts and in turn they are lavishly funded by the military contractors. Those who object to the massive spending are called “soft on defense.” But spending thirteen billion dollars on a ship that does not work undermines US national security far more than all the antiwar activists put together. The money runs out and we are left holding the bag with a totally useless gold-plated military and the rest of the world angry and seeking revenge over the chaos sown by decades of US interventionism.

Maybe if they hadn’t named the ship after Gerald Ford…?

Daniel McAdams is director of the The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity. Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

7 thoughts on “Like the F-35, US Latest and Most Expensive Aircraft Carrier Doesn’t Work”

  1. Or The Fence idea, draw a line of chain link steel across all the borders. And constantly patrol them. Look how well such tactics have worked so far…

    Change the economic policies of Mexico for instance, the maquiladores and NAFTA… Oh, wait, that’s right. Each year the official counts AND the somewhat racist unofficial counts of people fleeing the New Capitalist Paradise steadily rise. Each year a new record number of migrants.

    The Navy throws up (like “regurgitates”) the notion they’re a “Global Force (for good, which in popular patois means “eternally”)” and shows pictures of the globe with red pins marking where the Permanent Guardians Of Wall Street Trading Interests are lurking… allegedly fighting piracy of the small scale independent contractors while doing massive wholesale business like intercepting the Morning Glory because the executives of the corporation who launched it aren’t affiliated with the United Corporate States.

  2. Teach a man to fish so he and his family can compete against the International Fishing Conglomerates… just, you know, not successfully. The Navy is such a great equalizer.

  3. Navy: Umm..Hello? Yes, ahh the new super carrier I just bought…it’s not working…

    Pentagon Tech Support: Well, did you try turning it off and back on again?

  4. Well, Spinney was a vocal critic of the F-15 (he said the F-5 could do the job for one-fourth the cost), which performed flawlessly in the Gulf War. The F-15E, of course, also became a first-rate strike aircraft. And I believe that it was F-15Es and FB-111s which did most of the tank plinking using LBGs. The Warthog didn’t actually have an IR sensor at the time, pilots had to use the IR sensor in their Maverick’s as a poor-mans targeting pod. And targeting pods were pioneered during the 70’s and 80’s by the Air Force, as part of a deliberate high-tech policy, which is what Spinney and his fellow critics were opposed to.

    It’s fair to admit that the Iraqi’s were not first rate opponents, but pretty much every major platform the U.S. used during the war came out with its reputation enhanced. The F-117 is perhaps the best example of the sort of high-tech approach that Spinney opposed, and it was vital in decapitating Iraq’s command-control networks. B-52s wouldn’t have been able to carpet bomb without lots of other precision strikes on air defense networks. On the ground, the Abrams and Bradley disproved all their pre-war critics (and there were a lot during their development).

    I do think your point about organization and integrated air/land battle makes sense, and the training and command and control efforts put into the military really bad off. But I think even that level of integration presupposes a high-tech base of systems that can integrate and share information efficiently.

  5. I actually agree with you a fair bit there. I think DoD spending probably has a lot of problems (though I can’t speak with expertise of course), and the Pentagon sure seems to be top-heavy with too many officers and departments running around looking for a reason to justify themselves.

    But, if the problem is more to do with personnel costs and staffing issues, then why are we focusing on procurement? We can argue about the cost and merits of big new platforms (I have my own thoughts on the F-35, but that’s for another topic), but the Pentagon does at least have a good track record of “eventually” figuring things out and producing world-class platforms. I’m sure we could do a lot to reform the procurement process in general (I have a hunch that there are myriad layers of red tap and various bureaucratic offices creating wasteful overhead), but I’m not sure we should be focusing our criticism on the Ford-class carriers in that case.

    Big new platforms have a history of costing more than expected and taking longer than promised. I’m sure part of the problem is Pentagon bureaucracy, but new technology is also hard to develop (the private sector isn’t immune to this either).

    This isn’t really an American-specific problem either, most other countries have had trouble fielding new weapons systems in a timely and cheap manner as well (the French Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon actually took longer to reach full service than it’s taking the F-35, believe it or not).

  6. Why spend so much budget on personel salary then? If these men want to serve the country they should do so for free and not for financial reason. (If you want to earn money, get better education instead of joining the army!) All these perks and benefits US veterans receive should be more than enough in terms of compensation.

    South Korean military doesnt have any problem getting entirety of male citizen population to serve for free under these conditions.
    1. Forced labor without pay – in various government or even civilian construction projects, since they often bribe your officers and generals to use free soldier labor.
    2. With minimum supply – your officers happened to embezzle heating fuel for the whole unit and pocketed some money? Theyll just order you to trek snowy mountain and gather firewood if you dont want to freeze to death.
    3. Lowest quality of food – involves diseased culled animals thrown away by livestock industry or expired foods thrown out by supermarket. Food budget assigned for each soldier is aroundt 2$ (comparisonwise elementary schools in seoul has 2.50$ meal budget for child). Even most of these get embezzled by your superiors, so expect to eat trash.
    4. Locked inside prisonlike condition. So

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