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Boardman writes: "The F-35 is a case study of government failure at all levels - civilian and military, federal, state, local, even airport authority. Not one critical government agency is meeting its obligation to protect the people it presumably represents. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT, who wrote the F-35 critique above, is hardly unique as an illustration of how government fails, but he sees no alternative to failure."

 (photo: Gizmodo)
(photo: Gizmodo)


Why Governments Fail

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

16 March 13

 

Faced with F-35 failures, costs - Congress says to push on.

 

Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a
Tall man'll be over his head, we're
Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on!

- Pete Seeger

ccording to one of its supporters, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is not "what our troops need," is "too costly" and "poorly managed," and its "present difficulties are too numerous to detail."

The F-35 is a case study of government failure at all levels - civilian and military, federal, state, local, even airport authority. Not one critical government agency is meeting its obligation to protect the people it presumably represents. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who wrote the F-35 critique above, is hardly unique as an illustration of how government fails, but he sees no alternative to failure.

Up for re-election in 2014 and long a supporter of basing the F-35 in Vermont, Leahy put those thoughts in a letter to a constituent made public March 13. This is Leahy's most recent public communication since December 2012, when he refused to meet with opponents of the F-35 and his web site listed a page of "public discussion" events mostly from the spring, including private briefings with public officials, without responding to any substantive issues.

The F-35 is a nuclear-capable weapon of mass destruction that was supposed to be the "fighter of the future" when it was undertaken in 2001. Now, more than a decade overdue and more than 100% over budget, the plane is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over its useful life, of which about $400 billion has already been spent.

100th F-35 Being Built, None Yet Operational

In January, the Lockheed Martin production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, reported it was well along "in the final phase of building the wings" of the 100th F-35 constructed by the Bethesda, Maryland, company. Of the first 99 F-35s, none are yet operational.

The F-35 isn't even close to fully operational - it can fly only on sunny days. It can't fly at night. And it can't fly in clouds or near lightning. We know this because the Pentagon tells us so, in a report written for the Secretary of Defense by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, J. Michael Gilmore, dated February 15, 2013.

Although some media hyped the report as a "leaked document," Gilmore clearly expected the report would become public, since he included a description of its wide distribution within the government, concluding with the reminder: "By law, I must provide Congress with any test-related material it requests."

By March 5, Gilmore's report was on the internet and giving the Canadian government second thoughts about buying the plane at all. Of the ten other countries partnering in F-35 development, Italy has already reduced the number of plane it will eventually buy. Norway, Turkey, and others are also having second thoughts – as is even the United States. Leahy indicates in his letter that "the jet is too costly to proceed with purchases at today's planned levels," which are about 2,400 planes at a currently projected cost of $120 billion each, give or take $30 billion.

Gilmore's report covers the F-35 training program at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for two months in the fall of 2012, a program originally scheduled to begin in August 2011, but the F-35 wasn't ready then. Even a year later, the training program "was limited by the current restrictions of the aircraft." The program partially trained 4 pilots in 46 days.

If the Pilot Can Eject, He'll Be Lucky Not to Drown

The report's executive summary gives a sense of what some of the "current restrictions" of the F-35 are:

  • Aircraft operating limitations prohibit flying the aircraft at night or in instrument meteorological conditions, hence pilots must avoid clouds and other weather. These restrictions are in place because testing has not been completed to certify the aircraft for night and instrument flight.

  • The aircraft also is currently prohibited from flying close formation, aerobatics, and stalls, all of which would normally be in the familiarization phase of transition training.

  • The F-35A does not yet have the capability to train in these phases, nor any actual combat capability, because it is still early in system development.

  • lso, little can be learned from evaluating training in a system this immature.

  • The radar, the pilot's helmet-mounted display (HMD), and the cockpit interfaces for controlling the radios and navigational functions should be improved.

The report also notes that the pilot escape system is not yet reliable, especially if a pilot were to eject over water.

On the blog of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Winslow Wheeler takes a closer look at the full report under the headline: "The Air Force's F-35A: Not Ready for Combat, Not Even Ready for Combat Training."

What Do You Expect for $400 Billion? Something That Works?

So for $400 billion (and counting), the U.S. has bought an "immature system," a combat fighter still unfit for combat, a plane that has spent much of 2013 grounded for various malfunctions. The General Accounting Office (GOA) report issued this month offers good news of the it's-not-as-bad-as-it-used-to-be kind, as in the finding that production costs are "trending" downward toward targets.

The program continues to make design changes in the F-35 at the rate of about 200 per month, even as the plane continues in production, creating what amounts to a permanent process of retrofitting. The GAO projects that F-35 flight testing may be complete some time in 2017 and the plane might not be ready for combat before 2019.

No wonder the F-35 program's executive officer, Lt.-General Christopher Bogdan, has expressed dissatisfaction with the companies making the plane. The general, who has been with the program since July 2012 and became director in December, didn't use the word "profiteering" to call out two major defense contractors for their shoddy-but-profitable performance on the F-35, but he came close:

"What I see Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney [subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.] doing today is behaving as if they are getting ready to sell me the very last F-35 and the very last engine and are trying to squeeze every nickel out of that last F-35 and that last engine. I want them both to start behaving like they want to be around for 40 years, I want them to take on some of the risk of this program, I want them to invest in cost reductions, I want them to do the things that will build a better relationship. I'm not getting all that love yet."

Congress Isn't Doing Its Job in This Area, Either

Congressional oversight, which is intended to keep debacles like the F-35 from happening, has failed utterly. Instead, according to Leahy, who as the senior Democratic senator is the president pro tem of the Senate and third in the line of succession to the presidency, leadership is no longer possible.

Like the rest of the Vermont congressional delegation, which includes Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch, Leahy has struck a pose of self-imposed helplessness when it comes to basing the world's most expensive and not-yet-operational weapons system in the middle of Vermont's only significant population center, suggesting that the decision is entirely up to the Air Force and civilian control of the military – an outmoded concept of some other America.

The Air Force has twice postponed making a final decision as to whether the F-35 should be based at the Burlington International Airport, even though the Air Force's own environmental report warns that the F-35 is four times as loud as current fighters in Burlington, and that this increase in noise is likely to render at lease 1,300 homes - and perhaps more than 3,000 homes - "unsuitable for residential use."

None of Vermont's congressional delegation has addressed these or other serious issues with any intellectual integrity. Welch has no reference to the F-35 on his web site, and Sanders has nothing more substantive than links to a few brief news stories.

Former Prosecutor Trusts Belief Over Evidence

"I am concerned that some fears have become exaggerated throughout this debate," Leahy wrote in December, relying on the unscientific, unsupported opinion of an Air Force officer. In the same letter, without providing a factual basis, the former county prosecutor added, "I would strongly oppose basing the F-35 in Vermont if I believed its noise would make Winooski or South Burlington unlivable."

One commenter on the POGO Blog story wondered: "When will we bring to justice the flag officers and SESs [senior executive service], past and present, who presided over this abortion? Courts martial, criminal indictments, please? And what about the contractor's violations?"

So while some observers are calling for criminal investigations of a boondoggle, Vermont's congressional delegation is still calling for basing the plane in Burlington.



William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.



Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

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-20 # Walter J Smith 2013-03-16 18:36
The article would make more sense if it were proof read by the author, or better, by an editor.

"Sentences" do no work like this one, which almost began making sense before it ran across two county lines and then stumbled all over itself:

"Like the rest of the Vermont congressional delegation, which includes Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., Leahy has struck a pose of self-imposed helplessness when it comes to basing the world's most expensive and not-yet-operati onal weapons system in the middle of Vermont's only significant population center, suggesting that the decision is entirely up to the Air Force and civilian control of the military is an outmoded concept of some other America."

I guess it still depends on what the meaning of each one of those two verbs spelled "is" is.
 
 
+27 # Even 2013-03-17 02:53
It is a complex sentence but there is no problem understanding it. And it is completely grammatical.
 
 
+13 # RMDC 2013-03-17 07:41
This is all good news. The US does not need another weapon of mass destruction with which to kill people all over the earth. I hope F-35 never is operational. Let the US regime waste its money on this boondoggle. The more money it wastes, the sooner it will go bankrupt and collapse.

That is the real way that empires fail. They collapse because of internal rottenness -- bankruptcy, corruption, violence, and the rest.

The F-35 is a big contributor to the end of the US empire and reign of terror all over the world. I say spend trillions more on it, so much that Lockheed Martin will never make it operational. They already know that there's more money to be made in "retrofitting" and "redesign" than in production of something that works. When they actually have something that works, they will sub-out the manufacture to a low cost nation. Right now when it does not work is the golden phase.

Boardman is right -- the US regime and Locheed Martin are building their own collapse. The F-35 will never work and neither of them give a damn.
 
 
+2 # indian weaver 2013-03-18 06:07
That's right. The former government of america is creating an implosion by not supporting anything within our borders, including The People, all infrasctructure s and water / air / ground being polluted / poisoned. Although this government will destroy our nation, it can also destroy most of us meanwhile until push comes to shove, so to speak. But we have nothing to fear from outside our borders. Our enemy is right here and we pay their bills and salaries.
 
 
+9 # reiverpacific 2013-03-17 09:57
Quoting Walter J Smith:
The article would make more sense if it were proof read by the author, or better, by an editor.

"Sentences" do no work like this one, which almost began making sense before it ran across two county lines and then stumbled all over itself:

"Like the rest of the Vermont congressional delegation, which includes Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., Leahy has struck a pose of self-imposed helplessness when it comes to basing the world's most expensive and not-yet-operational weapons system in the middle of Vermont's only significant population center, suggesting that the decision is entirely up to the Air Force and civilian control of the military is an outmoded concept of some other America."

I guess it still depends on what the meaning of each one of those two verbs spelled "is" is.


Now that you've impressed us all on how literate and smart you are, how about making a "point d'appui" on the subject matter, o' wise one.
"Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument.
About "it" and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door as in I went".
-A wise old Persian.
 
 
+37 # Dion Giles 2013-03-16 21:56
An F35 strike fighter costs $122.5 million, and a further $20 million or so if you want an engine in it. Pollies around the world squandering their people's money on it are committing high treason.
 
 
+6 # charsjcca 2013-03-17 12:11
In Alaska they give money to all the people, including the homeless and the children. It can be done.
 
 
+21 # theory≠opinion 2013-03-17 03:51
I didn't know about this. I'm sort of surprised about the Vermont delegation. I didn't think they were into this kind of thing.
 
 
+2 # WBoardman 2013-03-17 15:13
They would probably say they aren't,
but a blind eye does not equal oversight.
 
 
+14 # Charles3000 2013-03-17 04:24
This was all predicted years ago by a president of Martin Marietta (before the join up with Lockheed) when he observed that the price escalation of fighter jets would increase to the point where only one could be purchased and put into service by the Air Force.
 
 
+15 # fliteshare 2013-03-17 06:55
We are buying weapon systems for a cold war turned hot, while we are fighting guerilla wars turned religious. And to quote Thomas Barnett on that phenomenon: "Bad Pentagon, bad, bad, bad.".
 
 
+4 # WBoardman 2013-03-17 15:12
In fairness to the Pentagon, which is important,
their job is to make honest requests for war prep,
knowing nothing is ever enough.
That where the "honest" part gets critical.

But the Pentagon get nothing, nada, zippo
without the collusion
of both houses of congress and the president,
because we have that honored tradition of
"civilian control of the military" --
[laughter dies down]
OK, so Eisenhower was right and too many of our
politicians are craven, unprincipled, greedy, whatever
it takes to cede effective control to unaccountable others
and outsource military spending to those who can
most profit from it.
 
 
+24 # Wyntergreen 2013-03-17 08:03
Think of how many school lunches could be bought for the price of ONE fighter plane.
 
 
+18 # wilhelmscream 2013-03-17 08:45
Kill the project; scrap the F-35!! Too costly and could get our pilots K.I.A
 
 
+20 # reiverpacific 2013-03-17 09:50
It's a pity that all that money isn't being put to a better use, like a universal healthcare system, infrastructure renewal and public education.
-But ANYTHING GOES with our $ for spending on "Defense" -or more appropriately, destructive devices in this death culture.
I have an elderly neighbor who was test pilot -must ask him what he thinks of this.
It's a bit like no-bid KBR/Haliburton' s shoddy work on bases and the Green Zone in Iraq, some basic omissions to grounding of electrical wiring and outlets in shower rooms -which would be glaring code violation at home- which killed some soldiers -but no retribution, just spend more (as in the "Missing Iraqi Billions) and cover it all up as long as it's for death-dealing, power, pollution and destruction.
Life is cheap to most of your leaders I'm afraid.
 
 
+9 # fredboy 2013-03-17 09:55
Governments fail when the people no longer trust or support them.
 
 
-1 # Depressionborn 2013-03-18 16:44
Quoting fredboy:
Governments fail when the people no longer trust or support them.


Not always,
there is always Gibbon's Athens.

"In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again."

Careful what you wish for guys.
 
 
+1 # reiverpacific 2013-03-18 20:31
Quoting Depressionborn:
Quoting fredboy:
Governments fail when the people no longer trust or support them.


Not always,
there is always Gibbon's Athens.

"In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again."

Careful what you wish for guys.

So what do YOU wish for? -Another depression? We're already in it!!!! -and not crawling out too fast.
You increasingly sound like one of the "Up by your bootstraps" crowd -but you have to have boots to begin with to have bootstraps.
Let's have some creative ideas instead of snide inferences!
 
 
+10 # MidwestTom 2013-03-17 10:04
Here I thought that the Osprey was the most wasteful plane. Maybe the Congress missed a word, it is not a weapon of mass destruction; but a weapon of mass financial destruction. However, then I remembered that Congress gets a life of benefits no matter how the nation suffers.
 
 
+5 # Wordslinger 2013-03-17 10:09
The good news is, we haven't used this aircraft to nuke brown, black or yellow people this week. Who knows about next week? Screw Amerika Inc.
 
 
+5 # MidwestTom 2013-03-17 10:10
Is it any wonder that nobody wanted the Treasury offering on 10-year notes last Thursday, so the Fed had to buy them all (that is called pure money printing). Now that China id the largest importer of crude oil how long do you think that will continue to price oil in dollars? Once they start proving oil in Yaun, the game is up, and the F-35 and a ton of other government expenses will have to go.
 
 
+2 # WBoardman 2013-03-17 15:04
Not to dispute your larger point,
but China seems to be the #2 importer,
behind the United States (about twice as much),
and closer to Japan#3 and India #4

http://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?t=10&v=93
 
 
+2 # charsjcca 2013-03-17 11:59
Governments, by their essence, do not succeed. They architects of this madness
always surround themselves with like bodies
pandering to the collective need. In America we speak of the best and brightest. By whose definition, by what standard do we make such assessment? At that moment a certain percentage of humankind is eliminated. These choices are enforced by organized violence. There are always death squads in any social setting. Government willfully carries out the wishes of the group.
 
 
+4 # wilhelmscream 2013-03-17 12:57
Kill the project; scrap the F-35!! Too costly and could get our pilots K.I.A
 
 
+2 # Kathymoi 2013-03-17 15:37
Governments fail because they are made of people and people, every one of us, have a tendency both toward greed and selfishness and toward denial and rationalization of those flaws. Governments also fail because governments are elected and policed by people, who have the same flaws and tendencies as the people who make up the governing bodies. (Example, you have WalMart owners, whom we can equate with 'government" pretty literally, motivated by greed and selfishness to destroy the planet, put most other businesses (people) out of business, and to lower the standard of living of pretty much all working class people. For them, greed is for the profits that fatten their wallets. Then there are the governed, in this example we can look to the customers of WalMart, who are willing to support all the inhumane practises that make WalMart so big and successful in order to buy goods at lower prices than is ethically possible, thereby fattening their own wallets with the "savings". Greed is not the only quality of a human, but it is at the bottom of the failure of governments, pretty much every time.
 
 
+1 # egbegb 2013-03-17 17:09
When people realize that government "agencies" are in business to stay in business and grow, America will revive. Defense?
EPA? HUD? FDA? USDA? DoE? DoEd? DoI? All will do anything without limit to keep their jobs (the peons) and expand their control/pay (the managers). This is not rocket science.
 
 
+2 # intheEPZ 2013-03-18 12:55
How frighteningly like the sale of "too cheap to meter" nuclear power plants to a gullible public, an immature technology (now obsolete) which depended on a shifty "waste confidence rule" to justify the spending of billions of public dollars, enriching the few while producing enormous tonnages of radioactive waste which we're still unconfident will ever be able to be disposed of safely. Who's buying this crap? If the technology isn't there yet, no deal.
 

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