The F-35 fighter jet is the symbol of the corruption within the military-industrial complex and government waste. The Department of Defense first began developing it in 1994 in an attempt to create a fast, lightweight jet for multiple branches of the US army.
However, the program has fallen far short of these goals, as reported by the National Review:
Twenty years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, we have a program that has yet to deliver one combat-capable squad. In fact, the program has yet to deliver a stable design. F-35s delivered to date could still need air-frame modifications, not to mention having unstable avionics and weapons systems.”]
The newly developed but poorly designed jet regularly loses simulated dogfights to the F-16, which was developed in the 1970s. And yet, according to The Atlantic’s Dominic Tierney:
Washington intends to buy 2,443 [F-35 jets], at a price tag of $382 billion.
Add in the $650 billion that the Government Accountability Office estimates is needed to operate and maintain the aircraft, and the total cost reaches a staggering $1 trillion.
In other words, we’re spending more on this plane than Australia’s entire GDP ($924 billion).
The F-35 is the most expensive defense program in history, and reveals massive cost overruns, a lack of clear strategic thought, and a culture in Washington that encourages incredible waste.”]
Why? How can the government possibly get away with this?
In the Learn Liberty video below, George Mason University Professor Chris Coyne says that while some are shocked by the failure of the F-35 (and the subsequent investment in it), it’s actually an entirely predictable consequence of the military-industrial complex—the close relationship among military leaders, private contractors, bureaucrats, and government legislators.
In a competitive market—characterized by profit and loss signals—the F-35 would have been shelved years ago. But for military contractors, profit and loss signals are not determined by the market but by a firm’s ability to navigate politics and bureaucracy.
In the market, resources are scarce and must be put to their highest valued use. For a military contractor, resources are essentially limitless because of taxpayer dollars. All it has to do is convince legislators and bureaucrats to keep the gravy train flowing.
It’s a back-scratching exercise where the taxpayer is the backscratcher.