It’s election time once again and I’m not sure there’s a Republican Presidential candidate who doesn’t want to spend more money on defense. Spending in the federal budget is an indication of the administration’s priorities. To put things into perspective this year’s budget for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is slightly over $5 billion. This is certainly not chump change, but cancer is a disease that kills about 560,000 Americans a year or about the number of Americans killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, every two days.
Defense spending is the playground of massive bureaucracies and corporate conglomerates more than happy to put their hands out for them to be weighed down by billions of taxpayer dollars.
The biggest project and arguably the biggest waste of money is the F-35 fighter. It’s supposed to be the country’s all around, do everything, next generation fighter plane. All the armed services are getting it, so it’s supposed to meet all their needs. The original idea was that if one plane can do that there will be savings because instead of different fighter planes for each branch of the military there will be one for all of them.
Only it hasn’t happened that way. This jack of all trades is a master of none. Because it’s being asked to do so many things it doesn’t do any of them particularly well. It’s the most expensive weapons system in history with a current estimated price tag of $400 billion dollars or eighty times this year’s NCI budget. The estimated total lifetime cost of the plane is projected at $1.1 trillion.
A major flaw for taxpayers is that the plane wasn’t fully designed with a prototype built for testing, with a later decision to buy it or not. There was a decision to buy it, then it was designed and tested on the fly (as it were). For defense contractors this is a great feature. As hundreds of billions of dollars are invested and the project stumbles along it’s more difficult to kill the project and stop the flow of dollars.
The most recent bad news is that the estimated date of completion of the plane’s software and its testing has been pushed back to 2018 while the planes continue to be produced and purchased. We taxpayers could have in our possession 500 of these planes before it’s fully tested. It’s possible there may be flaws in the hundreds of planes we’ll have on hand so severe they will be too expensive to fix.
Next time you hear campaign coverage on the media and one candidate or another is saying more money needs to be spent on defense feel free to think, no, money spent on defense needs to be spent more wisely. More money needs to be spent on treatments and finding cures for cancer, not massive wastes of money that keep the Pentagon and defense contractors flush with money with little to show for it.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are those of the author or other attributed individual and do not necessarily represent the official opinion of the OncoLink Staff, University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), or the University of Pennsylvania, unless explicitly stated with the authority to do so.