When was the last time you saw the headline, "Cost of [Pentagon-weapons-system-of-your-choice] halved"? Probably never. Still, the thought came to mind when this recent Associated Press headline caught my eye: "Pentagon: F-35 fighter jet cost doubles."
Here's the story behind it: Since 2001, when an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was expected to cost an already hefty $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 cost today is $113 million per plane. Yes, that's per plane. This supposed future workhorse of the US military is now priced like the planet's most precious gem. It's also 2 ½ years behind schedule. Keep in mind that the Marines, the Air Force, and the Navy are planning to buy a combined 2,450 of them for what's now an eye-popping $323 billion. And if you think the costs are likely to stay in the $113 million range, given the history of Pentagon cost overruns, then I have a nice little national security bridge to Brooklyn I think the US public might love.
In other words, if all goes well from here (an unlikely possibility), a single future weapons system is now estimated to cost the American taxpayer almost one-third of what the Obama administration's health-care plan is expected to cost over a decade. You 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.