Trick or Treat! Defense Spending

As the second installment of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance's Trick or Treat extravagnaza, this one highlights defense spending but in essence is brought to you by the Department of Defense and the Super Committee. As part of the August 2, 2011 deal to raise the debt ceiling, the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka the “Super Committee”) was created to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction.  If the Super Committee doesn’t come up with recommendations for deficit reduction there will be across-the-board spending cuts and that won’t bode well for the Pentagon.  Any cuts in Defense spending must be done wisely to ensure the safety and protection of our troops.  Today’s Tricks or Treats should be a guide for the Super Committee as they finalize their plans to find spending cuts.  WARNING!! As always, we advise strong parental guidance because some material may not be suitable for children since they are the ones that will ultimately be paying for these tricks.

TRICK: The Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine or “The Thing That Wouldn’t Die.”  Designed to create an affordable substitute for current jet fighters, the Joint Strike Fighter is heralded as the future of fighter jets. The jet is presently equipped with an F-135 engine developed by the Connecticut based company, Pratt & Whitney. In 1996, Congress decided that they were not satisfied with the Pratt & Whitney design and appropriated $7 million to pay General Electric/Rolls Royce for an alternate engine. The Pentagon agreed and requested funding for the program from 1997 until 2006.  In 2007, the Pentagon decided that an additional engine was no longer necessary and ended funding for the program. President Obama also voiced his opposition to the program, highlighting the alternate engine as a prominent example of government waste. Despite the bi-partisan agreement that the alternative engine is a waste of money, Congress continued pumping taxpayer dollars into the program. In fact, the engine received $1.2 billion in earmarks from 2004 to 2010. The total cost of the alternate engine is expected to eclipse $3 billion.  This March, in response to the continued funding, the Department of Defense released a stop work order on the engine. Despite the repeated attempts to kill the program, it somehow survives.  (read previous blog posting here).

TRICK: The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program or “The Pentagon’s U.F.O (Unneeded Fiscal Object).” The Government Accountability Office (GAO) just released a scary report on the Air Force’s (EELV) program which stated that “Program officials, recent launch studies, and the prime EELV contractor all cite a diminishing launch industrial base as a risk to the mission success of the program, but DOD analysis supporting this condition is minimal.”  The report also stated that, “The 2010 Launch Broad Area Review—which DOD officials cite as support for the proposed block buy approach—also relied, in part, on the 2009-2010 ULA data and analysis to conclude that the launch industrial base needs stability.  Although the ULA survey of its supplier base covered the appropriate topic areas for such a review—for example, financial stability and production operations—our analysis determined the survey was neither designed nor administered in a manner consistent with sound survey methodology practices, and in some cases, survey results presented to DOD could not be linked back to the survey questions.” The EELV program budgets have quadrupled since the Pentagon allowed Boeing and Lockheed to merge their launch business into a single monopoly provider, the United Launch Alliance, in 2006.   And now, what is even more frightening is that ULA  is pushing the Pentagon to write the company a $15 billion check for a five-year, sole source deal that will, according to GAO, commit DOD to more rockets than it needs at a higher price than it needs to pay.  This is one U.F.O. taxpayers should be concerned will invade our wallets.  (read previous blog posting here).

TRICK: The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) or “The Zombie Program That Is Impossible To Kill.”  MEADS, which was originally conceived as the replacement to the Patriot missile system, is being jointly built by the United States, Italy, and Germany with the Americans shouldering more than 50 percent of the cost.  Even though the Army doesn’t want the project, there was an additional $800 million allocated in February 2011 for the project through 2013.  A March 9, 2010 Washington Post article notes that "the Army says MEADS has become too expensive, is taking too long to produce and is difficult to manage because any changes in the program require German and Italian approval. 'The system will not meet U.S. requirements or address the current and emerging threat without extensive and costly modifications,' an internal Army staff memo concluded last month in recommending the cancellation of MEADS."  Even though House appropriators didn’t request funding for the project, the Senate led by Senate appropriator/earmarker extraordinaire Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) added funding for the program.  MEADS is a bloodsucker and will siphon much needed money away from our troops without enhancing national security. (read previous blog postings here and here).

TREAT: The Common Lift Vertical Support Program (CVLSP) or “a sweet tasty treat for taxpayers.”  CVLSP is a helicopter that was supposed to replace the UH-1N (which currently serves as non-combat aircraft within the United States). Duties of the aircraft involve the security of Air Force missile fields (ICBMs) and military executive transport. In acquiring more aircraft, the Air Force was considering using the Economy Act, a single source procurement method to speed up the process and save money.  The problem is that by invoking the Economy Act taxpayers may be paying for more helicopter than they need.  According to Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union, “Moreover, other life-cycle cost considerations may not favor the sole-sourcing route. At least one model that could be considered under CVLSP might require just one aircrew member in the cockpit – which could be of significant benefit in keeping training and personnel costs manageable. Also, owing to its size the UH-60 could need larger hangar space compared to several of the other CVLSP options, which could be billeted in existing UH-1N facilities. These military construction costs must likewise be accounted for in any fair analysis. By far the best way to ensure such an investigation takes place is through an open bidding process.”  Even though the Air Force decided to take the proper route and competitively bid the project, the latest budget impass(es) have stalled the competition process.  Taxpayers should hope that a stalled process does not mean they will revert back to the Economy Act which will leave a bad taste in the mouth of taxpayers.

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