The Pentagon’s Biggest Boondoggles

The New York Times published this excellent Op-Chart graphic of the most wasteful military spending programs. Note that several of the programs listed are military earmarks backed by Senator Inouye or programs that related to Hawai’i in some way.

Missile Defense and Global Information Grid involves many of the wasteful programs associated with the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kaua’i, computer and space warfare programs on Maui and a host of projects related to the ill-fated Project Kai e’e and Navy UARC at the University of Hawai’i. “Net-Centric Warfare” was one buzzword for these “revolutionary” technologies.

Along similar lines, Future Combat Systems was part of the transformation of the Army into modular, mobile, electronically networked and omniscient elements in the battlefield. The Stryker was one of the first elements to be deployed as a part of this transformation.

The Littoral Combat Ship is an enormously expensive program that was awarded to both Lockheed Martin and Austal USA. Austal USA was the manufacturer of the controversial Hawai’i Superferry, which was a prototype for the military’s Joint High Speed Vessel.   The Hawai’i Superferry contract helped Austal to establish its shipyard in the U.S., which enabled it to compete for the military contracts.

The F-35 Fighter is one of the troubled and expensive programs that President Obama vowed to veto. Senator Inouye went up against Obama to push for the F-35.



Published: March 12, 2011


The Pentagon’s Biggest Boondoggles


As our government teeters on the brink of a shutdown, and Congress and the president haggle over spending cuts, the Pentagon budget should be scoured for places where significant reductions may be made. Not the handful of trims alluded to by Defense Secretary Robert Gates — $78 billion over the next five years, with these savings simply used to shore up spending on other acquisitions — but major cuts to systems that don’t work very well or that are not really going to be needed for decades to come.

Unworkable or unnecessary systems tend to have something in common: their costs are often uncontrollable. A 2009 Government Accountability Office study of 96 major defense acquisition programs found that almost two-thirds of them suffered major cost overruns — 40 percent above contract prices, over all — with average delays of nearly two years. Those overruns totaled close to $300 billion, about the amount of President Bill Clinton’s last full defense budget request a decade ago.

Listed below is just a sampling of what systems could be ended without endangering America; indeed, abandoning some of them might actually enhance national security. These cuts would generate only small savings initially — perhaps just several billion this fiscal year, as contracts would have to be wound down. But savings would swiftly rise to more than $50 billion annually thereafter.

And there’s plenty more where these came from.

John Arquilla is a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School and author of “Worst Enemy: The Reluctant Transformation of the American Military.” Fogelson-Lubliner is a design firm.

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