The chronic problem of exorbitantly expensive weapons is becoming acute
The Economist 28 Aug 2010 unattributed article:
Updated correct link: link to article is here, h/t Movie Guy
The chronic problem of exorbitantly expensive weapons is becoming acute.
Robert Gates, America’s defence secretary, has ordered that production of the F-22 should end this year, capping the fleet at 187—a final cull for the Raptor, whose numbers were once supposed to reach about 750. In Europe orders for the Typhoon—a fighter made by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain—will fall. And on both sides of the Atlantic the rising cost of the stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter means its order book could shrink sharply.
Mr Gates wants the Pentagon to save 1-2% a year in overheads. A study of defence bureaucracies by McKinsey, a global management consultancy, suggests that American forces, though the most potent in the world, are among the least efficient, at least in terms of the “tooth-to-tail” ratio, the proportion of fighting forces to support personnel (the best were Norway, Kuwait and the Netherlands). American forces deploy and fight globally, so need more support than those only defending national borders. Nevertheless, the study suggests there is flab to be trimmed.
Manpower in all-volunteer armies, as most Western ones are these days, is expensive. Pay has to be competitive. In America, moreover, a big burden is the cost of health-care programmes for current and former servicemen, and their families. “Health-care costs are eating the defence department alive,” complains Mr Gates. Yet he has a hard time restraining Congress’s generosity to soldiers and veterans.
One response to high manpower costs is to rely on technology. But that does not come cheap. Study after study shows that the price of combat aircraft has been rising substantially faster than inflation, often faster than GDP. The same is true of warships. In a book published in 1983, Norman Augustine, a luminary of the aerospace industry, drafted a series of lighthearted “laws”. In one aphorism, he plotted the exponential growth of unit cost for fighter aircraft since 1910, and extrapolated it to its absurd conclusion:
Nearly three decades on, Mr Augustine says, “we are right on target. Unfortunately nothing has changed.” These days Raptors go for $160m apiece ($350m including the cost of developing the jet), compared with $50m-60m for the venerable F-16. In the long run, high unit costs must limit numbers. Since 1970 America’s fleets of combat aircraft and major warships have shrunk, even as defence spending rose.
Repeated reforms have failed to break this dire cycle. According to the last full report by America’s Government Accountability Office (GAO), the cost of 96 of America’s biggest weapons programmes in 2008 had risen on average by 25%, incurring an average delay of 22 months.
Augustine describes the reason the US cannot replace 1970’s equipment, too much money to get anything done by the socialized defense industry.
I heard Augustine speak in a conference I was at for up and coming DoD program managers about 20 years ago, he had the same idea then about rising prices.
The print article has a log base 10 chart showing a straight line in prices rising.
He also suggested we keep calendar diaries so we could go back to answer the question ‘what did you know when’. I have since. I made an entry last night.
The object in new US defense acquisition is to bring the project in on time and not exceed the planned cost overrun. Change the performance, the thing can be fielded and fixed, just meet the schedule and price and don’t ask don’t tell what performance was ordered. Try to get off GAO’s list. Auditors don’t know requirements or quality.
Or that what was ordered has no mission that it is needed do.
On the F-22 the 187 delivered came at the same total price as the Air Force originally promised to deliver 750, just a series of failures, which drove costs up and performance down.
The new reform is to deliver despite the “compromises” on performance. Quality is not a topic in “Selling off” the product.
The logistics bow wave from all this is now up to three or four times the costs to acquire the compromised weapons to try make it “ready” for tilting with the fictitious monsters out there.
I need a separate comment about Gates’ supposed cuts.
The is $20B is on $700B is not even available efficiencies. It keeps the same force structure based on ficitious threats sold by novelists.
It is as if atthe end of WW II they decided to keep 10 million soldier under arms.
Frank and Paul have a plan to cut $1T in the same time Gates cuts $100B.
At the end when the inept part of the industry is gone the security may be more affordable, and meet the common defense.
It is interesting to note that the F-35 was intended to be the cheaper part of a high/low mix of f-22s and F-35s.
its interesting in that the 9/11 terrorists total expense budget was the cost of the box-cutters; they didnt even pay for the airline tickets, as they were on credit cards…
and our first response was to slam million dollar tomahawk missles into afghanistan mountainsides…
seems like Osama bin Laden’s “bleed until bankruptcy” plan is going pretty well…
The largest minority shareholder of the economist magazine is Rothschild crime family. No family has done more to promote death and distruction over the centuries then this one. The house of Rothschild loans money to all combatants, and owns vast segments of defense industries. These guys are the quintessential merchants of death.
The economist magazines mission statement is: “to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress”. Today they want to press forward in Iran and are going to resort to what ever chicanery is nessesary to achieve war.
Screw the “Economist” it is all propaganda. The Rothschilds have never been squeamish about forcing expensive weapons systems on there puppet creatures in government. Quite the opposite in fact. During WW1 they overcharged the British government for Vickers Machine guns which they owned and then happily loaned the British government money monies to buy what it could not afford.
Napoleon Bonapart obseved “When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes. Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain”. Remember he is talking about the guy who owns the “Economist”
Rothschild reqiured his creature Chirchill waste an army at Gallipoli while the battle in France was still in question. Then he made Balfour publically lick his boots, and promise to mid wife a Jewish state, even though this jeopardized all of Britians war time arab allies. Then in 1918 he financed the Bolsheviks through his proxy Jacob schiff, despite the fact that the Bolsheviks intention was to withdrawl from the war which would allow the German army to concentrate souly on the western front. Screw the Rothschilds there lousy yellow journalism, and there endless wars.
I hadn’t realized that the projected huge horrible hairy deficit included cost overruns for promised benefits to McDonnel Douglas. Someone should tell… no, never mind.
But fight, fight, fight, for lifetime health benefits for veterans. Besides its being the right thing to do, it would get the public used to the idea of “government health care” and force the government to get serious about controlling health care costs… other than by denying benefits.
That you are not speaking German = FDR, U.S. military forces, and the U.S. defense industry.
That you are not speaking Japanese = FDR, U.S. military forces, and the U.S. defense industry.
That you are not speaking Spanish and Chinese…well, it’s only a matter of time now due to U.S. trade policy and the failure to enforce immigration laws including illegal entry into the United States of America. 2050 will be much different.
Yes this would make a nice post.
Barney Frank is in many instances right on the mark. Too bad we can’t keep his dirty little hands out of banking oversight.
Sammy on this we must disagree. The Germans had no plans to conquer and colonize America. Hitler even argued that the British Empire was neccessary for the established order, and was only half hearted in his implimentation of opperation sea lion which never envisioned that the English learn German.
I always like Sherlock Holmes case of the Dog that did not bark. The Economist Magazine has never discused how the Germans with out gold or debt were able during the early years of National Socialism to go from being the poorest country in Europe to the richest. Everybody just says Hitler was a meany. End of conversation. The Rothschild dominated banking cartel which owns our central bank has always maintained that governments needed banks outside the control of government to maintain a credible currency. The Germans proved this false.
The US will soon be paying half a trillion dollars a year in interest to a private banking cartel that has run this country into the ground. Why? Because any dissent is ruthlessly crushed.
As for the Japanese. They army was chocking on a sea of Chinese blood. They only attacked us because FDR had place an oil embargo on them.
Too bad Heuy Long never had his chance.
“That you are not speaking Spanish . . .”
Lots of American citizens speak Spanish already, MG. Many of them, including my daughter, have skin as white as yours. Fluency in more than one language is one sign of an educated person.
“Being forced to communicate in Spanish in the USA to conduct business is another matter, and that is not uncommon in parts of the nation.”
Ok, I’ll bite. What parts of the nation force businesspeople to communicate in spanish? Where is this not uncommon? It sounds uncommon as hell to me and I live in Austin, TX.
If I recall correctly, the F-35 was supposed to be the “cheap” export fighter. Sort of filling the role of export sales to our allies in the 21st century that the F-16 used to have.
I’m a little shocked to see it come in close to the F-22, which was among other things was supposed to be our super long range strike fighter.
But I’m still used to $40 million F-18s, so everything looks like sticker shock to me.
“Being forced to communicate in Spanish in the USA to conduct business is another matter, and that is not uncommon in parts of the nation.”
This is bulls***, MG, and you know it.
“Shifting the primary language from English to another language in the USA is not a sign of national strength or being well educated.”
And yet, most Swiss manage at least two languages, and Switzerland seems pretty strong and has a relatively high level of per capita education. Canada has two official languages, and has gotten through the latest financial crises in better shape than the US.
Why don’t you just drop the pretense, MG, and admit you are basically a racist and a xenophobe?
Lets hope it doesn’t catch on. I think we should just make ’em round, put a camera inside, and launch ’em into orbit.
When we need better pictures (to drop bombs on something smaller than a house?!?) than Google Earth or Zillow can give, we still have old fashioned spy planes that can take off and accomplish the mission.
Hey, when you say cheap(er) export fighter, the F-5 is what comes to MY mind.
The American Defense Industry is not “socialized,” but rather became the model of “crony capitalism,” something our best post-WW II president, Eisenhower (he consolidated FDR’s New Deal, the best part of Truman’s foreign policy, obtained an armistice to end the fighting in the Korean War (an achievement that grows in stature when seen how hard it has been to end similar wars such as Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan), and check, for a while, run away defense spending. Of course, being 5 star general and the hero of the European War made him somewhat bullet proof to the charges that he was endangering the country when not backing every weapons the Defense industry and its military allies could come up with. But as his farewell address he remarked on the danger of military-industrial (and what he for the sake of prudence edited out) congressional complex to both democracy and to the financial solvency of the country. The problem goes to fact that the single customer (DoD) relies on agents who look forward to future employment with the seller. And the sellers, realize that they can past on all costs to the customer, as long as he can bring sufficient political pressure through Congress on DoD to accept those costs.
The irony of the F-35 is that it was conceived as way to save the costs by essence replacing 4 planes (F-16, F-18, A-6 intruder, and A-7 Harrier II) with one and thereby simplyfing the acquisition of parts and maintenance and training. Of course, a moment’s worth of commonsense thinking should have exploded that dream, but both the Air Force and the companies that built it bring the best Madison avenue techniques to marketing the dream and keeping people from looking at the problems (that by necessity the F-35 would be a terribly complex machine that by being asked to be both a supersonic fighter and V/STOL attack bomber, might end up doing neither mission very well and would of course be a cost overrun record holder – but of course cost overruns are part of the business model for Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s defense business.)
Still, the main reason for most Americans to learn Spanish is so we can escape from the USG and move to Mexico.
Well, you must be older than me, but we thought we could sell F-16s to foreign governments if we could get the price under $20 million.
But I think our export days are over. We may want to buy our fighters from china and control our DoD budget???
If they print the manuals in english, islm may be ok with that.
The F-16 was co-produced to a small extent, which is the model with F-35, however of the 40B or so development costs only the Brits have put in any real money, about $2B, a few other countries have thrown in up to another billion total.
But the Brits now it seems cannot afford to buy many.
The F-5 was a planned foreign sales fighter, never sold many, I think F-16 may have sold more. Also first version of F-18 was sold to Canada, who did not want single engine F-16.
Note Japan did not involve itself in F-35 co-production and has no skin in that game. They may buy and the pressure to build numbers will mean they do not have to pay for recoupment of development costs.
So, maybe the guys in upfront should have stayed out.
Overseas customers do not appreciate the overruns and poor quality that the US DoD accepts.
US defense industry was a pip squeak in WW II.
The US auto industry built most fot he airplanes and al the vehicles, as well as designing and organizing the Army tank plant at Warren.
You should know better both WW I and WWII enjoyed a severe industrial mobilization.
I have read a little about Frank/ Ron Paul suggestions and note it is about ten times Gates’ timid cuts.
I also do not see any mention of getting off the fiction of two major wars.
What is needed is a real cut in Two major wars and not just to two major combat operations which is no change.
Also, the Canadian Air Force has short runways, and the F-18 wings fold out for takeoff nicely too.
So, I take it that you have no interest in discussing the study that calls for eliminating $900 billion or more in DoD expenditures…
ilsm, no one said that they didn’t have to ramp up in WWII.
Above you said: “That you are not speaking German = FDR, U.S. military forces, and the U.S. defense industry.”
I suggest the “US defense industry” in 1940 was a tiny fraction and a whole lot better at producing than the “US defense industry” today, and as Ike saw it.
In my youth I studied industrial mobilization and war planning board effects. Big time mobilize the economy, get the bureaucarts busy and hire big corp executives (pretty rare today) to run the mobilization, almost took a job in it, but decided DC was bad place for my spirit.
I do not think Franks/Paul go far enough, it cuts some weapons and reaps some savings but does nothing go to get the definitions of “national interests” right. Much less advocate the common defense.
For example, the is this national interest from Gates’ guys call assuring access and overcoming anti access. That is not an interest, especially if you look at the non cold war with China.
Franks and Paul are a good start but not a sea change and the US needs a sea change.
You could write about holding F-35 numbers down, and cutting huge refuekling tankers and so forth.
I would rather write about fictions in national interest and fictions war planning which make it all right for a military industrial complex which cannot build anything right.
I could tlak all day about why the A330 tanker makes no sense since there is no way to support a brigade at the end of a 2000 km air bridge, if indeed putting brigade there were in any way connected to the common defense.
There goes the 30T tank!!
And I can write all day about how PM’s are told to accept trash, to stay on schedule and within cost, pay good profits because they can always change the definition of the “capability” the Joint Chiefs think to fight the next war in their own minds.
The US is blessed with no enemies.
Franks and Paul don’t go there.
If it had not been for the U.S. defense industry, the U.S. and its allies would have lost WWII. Period.
You can hate the defense industry all that you desire, but it is a fact that the defense industry regardless of domestic source was critical to winning WWII.
So, your answer is no. Yeah, why bother discussing a mere $900 billion or more in DoD cuts…
i don’t think any sane person imagines the US would not have lost WW2 without the defense industry. That is not at issue. The issue is whether the bloated peacetime defense industry is worth it’s cost.
You just might confuse hate with criticism. Your prerogative, it is how they rationalize harming whistleblowers.
I have studied industrial mobilization, an interest that goes with fully understanding the supply chain sustaining military logistics. I interviewed for a job in the office planning it at one point.
The US defense industry in 1942 delivered the A-26, which had almost the same issues the F-22. Look at the history of the F-4U Corsair, similar “growing pains” that was a wartime designed aircraft. The P-51 was not so hot until it got the RR Merlin engine. The B-17 had similar issues. They presage the things I have seen since 1985, when I left an honest job as a logistics planner to work on planning to sustain shoddy quality designs in the “defense acquisition system”.
In WW II the designs were done by the infant military industrial complex, however, the manufacture and fixing the quality issues was all GM, Chrysler, US Steel, and Kaiser Industries, which mobilized its shipyards etc. and built numerous smaller ones in places where none existed.
One of the issues is the stuff today is poorly designed stuff, manufactured by the same inept company, not so well. A recipe for failure, called vertical integration with such dumb fixes as currently manufacturing to help them who can do neither to fix their problems.
I guess I do have an anger toward the massive con going on since war became profitable. It is really bad since it takes a lot some kind of ‘gumption’ to pay for stuff that is not needed and so trash can be delivered.
I have some stuff in work, more of building a case on the whole rather than going into what Franks and Ron Paul are missing or too timid to pursue. I have read the Reserve Officers’ Associate put on it. They are not so critical, therefore it does not threaten the military industrial complex.
When they talk $400B a year I will take notice. Cut $4T in 10 years is doable and needed.
Franks’ is much better than Gates’ and the stuff coming out of the contrivance (think) tanks inside the beltway.
The U.S. and its allies won WWII because of FDR, U.S. military forces, and the U.S. defense industry.
Nothing that you have said changes that fact.