Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wisely Cutting Waste

On October 3, ROA attended a briefing presented by The Tax Protection Alliance. Panelists Dr. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, David Williams from the Tax Payers Union, and Mattie Corrao from Americans for Tax Reform discussed options for cutting defense spending wisely. The general discussion focused on what panelists asserted were systemic issues plaguing defense spending. Panelists contended that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle needed to rethink their respective “sacred cow” approaches to certain programs. The panel’s consensus being that in the current fiscal environment, all programs are subject to a scrutinous cost benefit analysis. As those present examined the viability of specific programs, there was consistency in the calls for a more accepting approach towards open competition and private sector alternative platforms. Aside of the broad analysis of the appropriations and procurement process, two key programs were identified as representing unsustainable costs with little operational upside.

The first program discussed was the alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; a project with redundant costs but seemingly no augmented performance. Prior to the F-35 development it had been unprecedented for a government funded program to use duplicate components from different manufacturers. The current engine design is produced by Pratt & Whitney while the alternate engine is being designed by General Electric. Panelists noted, the development of a totally new engine is not only redundant but confounding given the JSF already has a fully functional and reliable engine derived from a previous engine used in the F-22. The GE engine is not a derivative design and as such has incurred extra development costs. The result is a doubling down by the American taxpayer as they pay twice the cost for the second engine including development expenses which could amount to many billions of dollars in post-production costs including maintenance and spare parts.

The second program was the Medium Extended Air Defense System, MEADS. Conceived in the 1990s to supplant the Patriot Air Defense System, MEADS has experienced a series of cost overruns that has managed to make America’s European partners seek alternatives to MEADS in the form of upgraded Patriot systems at lower costs while meeting their collective security needs. One of the panelists suggested that because of the cost overruns, the Army has suggested that it may be more prudent to go with a program other than MEADS. As a result, MEADS has become a tax burden to Americans. Furthermore, MEADS will be duplicating capabilities that the American arsenal already possesses. There are other missile defense systems that are readily available and reliable.

ROA continues to advocate for the authorization and appropriation for a modern equipment account proportional to the missions being performed both domestically and abroad. ROA supports a cost benefit analysis and the subsequent elimination of programs which may be mismanaged or outdated. However, ROA maintains that the same pros and cons mindset must be adopted when considering the dangerous affects of a potentially hallowed military. As we scrutinize individual defense programs we must consider their contribution to the broader readiness of our troops. The readiness of our Reserve Component and the national security so deeply associated with that readiness must be at the forefront of our considerations when weighing specific cuts. ROA fully supports responsible steps towards debt and deficit reduction but will remain diligent in its advocacy against efforts to downgrade defense operability as a catch-all to cost savings.


Lt Col Donald Jacobberg USAR (Ret) said...

The biggest waste I have over the years is pork barrel projcets that contribute nothing to the military and sometimes which the military does not want. These are often riders to bills to get the congressman's or woman's vote.

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