Information Warfare: Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

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March 13, 2007: In a recent press release, the group, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), declared the F-22 a "pork" project, citing a Government Accountability Office report. This declaration, though, is somewhat questionable, largely due to the fact that once again, a political pressure group has gotten it wrong in its haste to pursue its agenda.

CAGW was pushing for additional production of the F-35 instead of the F-22, citing the difference in price. Here was the first problem. The F-35 price cited by CAGW, $35 million, was misleading. Estimates for the price per F-35 are anywhere from $44 million to $61 million as of January, 2005. Thus the CAGW number is an understatement of at least 20.5 percent, using the lower figure (the higher figure would make the understatement as much as 42.8 percent). Meanwhile, the flyaway cost for the F-22 is estimates at $116 million per plane, close to the $120 million figure cited.

The CAGW "Pig Book" for 2007 also targeted other DOD programs. One target was $9.5 million for new cold-weather clothing (much of it designed after experience in Afghanistan). Another target was $5.3 million for marine mammal research. The Navy has been facing a number of lawsuits over its use of sonar, and also used dolphins and sea lions for security work. Another target was $11.5 million for a new telescope for early detection of asteroids and other space objects that might hit earth.

Past recommendations by CAGW have also shown a distinct focus on dollars and cents rather than on what the troops might need. Last year, CAGW labeled the production of new C-130J transports as pork, despite that fact that the DOD was requesting more C-130Js and had reversed a decision to stop procurement after the Air Force grounded nearly 100 C-130Es whose wings suffered "severe fatigue" that same year. At least a dozen of those planes, which first entered service in August, 1962, had been flying since the Vietnam War.

Another target of CAGW has been the V-22 Osprey. Again, CAGW has ignored the fact that canceling the Osprey would leave the Marines flying in on ancient CH-46 helicopters (the youngest CH-46s are 35 years old). CAGW also ignored the quantum leap in capabilities the V-22 provides, including a top speed that is two times that of the CH-46, larger payload, and a much greater combat radius.

Still another CAGW recommendation involved procuring conventionally-powered carriers instead of nuclear-powered carriers. This proposal ignored the impact that such a measure would have on a carrier's combat capability. Nuclear power has increased the amount of fuel and weapons for the carrier's primary weapon that can be carried on board. A shift to conventional power would force a carrier to rely more on supply vessels, and would arguably make the U.S. Navy's prime power-projection asset much less capable.

Much of what is cited as defense pork is, in actuality, good for the country, particularly when it keeps a production line open. When a production line shuts down, a number of things happen. The workers who run the line are either re-assigned or they retire. Companies that once provided parts for the production line re-tool or go out of business. The equipment is often shifted to another production line, or it is destroyed (as Boeing did with the MD-11 production line). When a production line goes away, restoring it is often impossible.

CAGW might be penny-wise, but they are being pound-foolish at the very least. The worst part about their single-minded focus on perceived waste is that the real price for these cost-savings will be paid by soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines down the road, often because the programs halted today could be needed tomorrow. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)


 


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