Weapons Makers as 'Welfare Queens'

When was the last time you saw the
headline, "Cost of [Pentagon-weapons-system-of-your-choice]
Probably never. Still, the thought came to mind when this recent Associated Press
my eye: "Pentagon: F-35 fighter jet
cost doubles."

When was the last time you saw the
headline, "Cost of [Pentagon-weapons-system-of-your-choice]
Probably never. Still, the thought came to mind when this recent Associated Press
my eye: "Pentagon: F-35 fighter jet
cost doubles."

Here's the story behind it:
2001, when an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was expected to cost an already
$50 million, the plane's cost has soared into the stratosphere (despite
the fact
that the aircraft itself has barely left the ground). The estimated
today is $113 million per plane. Yes, that's per plane.
This supposed future workhorse of the U.S. military is now priced like
planet's most precious gem. It's also 2 1/2 years behind
. Keep
in mind that the Marines, the
Air Force, and the Navy are planning to buy a combined 2,450 of them for
now an eye-popping $323 billion. And if you think the costs are likely
stay in the $113 million range, given the history of Pentagon cost
then I have a nice little national security bridge to Brooklyn I think
the U.S.
public might love.

In other words, if all goes
well from
here (an unlikely possibility), a single future weapons system is now
to cost the American taxpayer almost one-third of what the Obama
administration's health-care plan is expected to cost over a decade.
could even think of the Pentagon's weapons procurement process as the
health-care system of the national security state. Its costs just never

stop rising. In fact, the Government Accountability Office pegs major
weapons systems cost overruns since 2001 at $295 billion, another near third of the cost of the
health-care bill
supposedly coming to a vote this week.

And here's what's remarkable:
barely hear about such overruns. They're almost never front-page
news, even though the money's being taken from not-so-deep taxpayer
pockets. And when truly terrible news, as with the F-35, comes in, all
that happens in Washington is that a few politicians mutter a
little. John McCain, for example, offered this less than stirring quote on the F-35:
"The taxpayers are
a little tired of this. I can't say that I can blame them"; and an
Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: "We cannot sacrifice other important
acquisitions in
the DOD [Department of Defense] investment portfolio to pay for this
capability." (Bet you didn't even know that future weapons were part of
Pentagon "investment portfolio.")

In the case of Secretary
of Defense
Robert Gates, he's planning to hold back $614 million in "performance
from the plane's lead contractor Lockheed Martin. (And you thought only

bankers and financial wheeler-dealers got performance bonuses!) But
striking that there are no tea party movements out in the streets of
America demanding our money back or
claiming that we're going to be broken by

Here's an American reality: the
is our true welfare state, the weapons makers our real "welfare queens,"
and we
never stop shoveling money their way. It's time, as retired Lt. Col.
William Astore does at TomDispatch.com, to raise a few tough questions
about the
Pentagonization of our country and its

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 TomDispatch.com