30+ years of US military bloat with some costs over ten times a reasonable level

War on the Rocks has an article about how the US is looking for home run technology that will provide long term military dominance. This is called the “Third Offset”.

The First Offset was nuclear weapons.
The second offset was precision weapons. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, improvements in precision-guided weapons, stealth technology, and space-based military communications and navigation. These initiatives were guided by a long-range research and development plan for component technologies and systems led by DARPA.

The War on the Rocks article wants to focus on many smaller innovation projects. They are basically pitching a series of “singles” instead of the home run or the dominant future scenario.

Much of the futures literature and techniques used to produce it is reminiscent of alchemy. The search for certainty, like the quest for gold, crowds out better judgment when thinking about events 20 years away. Bold claims about fourth industrial revolutions, cyber doom, and rising hegemons provide practitioners with a false sense of certainty about still unfolding events. Worse still, these forecasts tend to intersect with inherent individual bias and group dynamics in large organizations under pressure to make bets about the deep future. Practitioners confuse rampant speculation with empirical fact and create a picture of the future prone to euphoria or damnation rather than the mundane middling distribution of events more likely to occur. It is easier in the board room or E-Ring to play on dreams of unproven disruptive technologies, “risk-free” swarm warfare, super tanks, or the fear of artificial intelligence run amuck.

The analysis is overly complex and ignores the obvious fact that the US is spending decades and failing to develop successful new military systems and costs are over ten times what they should be.

– $600 million bomber is not normal or acceptable
– $200+ million jets are not normal or acceptable
– $8 billion submarines are not normal or acceptable
– $15 billion aircraft carriers are not normal or acceptable

The US Military and its contractors have vert fat costs and are decades slow

The US military did not have real competition since the 1980s. The Soviet Union was still around but was in the process of collapsing.

New US military jets increased. The F-16C/D had a unit cost of US$18.8 million (1998). In 2011 Iraq was sold F16’s for about $165 million per aircraft.

F22 Raptors were produced from 1996-2011. F22’s cost $150 million a piece and the program was cancelled because they were too expensive.

F35s were costing $300 million each for the first 150 or so but now they are trimming the costs down to $100 million range using accounting tricks.

The F35 program started in 1992. The first F35A flew in 2006. The F35 jets are just being approved for limited military service. 25 years and over $100 billion before there is any use out of these “more advanced planes”.

Submarines should be $1 billion or less but costs went up to $2 billion a piece for the Ohio subs and are heading up to $7-8 billion for the Columbia submarines.

It should not take a decade or three to develop these major systems.

Iraq War 2 was originally scoped out as $200 billion on the high end of cost

The second Iraq War was pitched as costing $100-200 billion. Instead costs for Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are about $5-6 trillion and since the wars have been bought with borrowed money will cost about $8 trillion in increased interest costs on higher debt.

There is limited efforts to create a strategy where achievable objectives are set for the region and where costs are contained.

Drones, strategies, alliances and technology should be re-examined and experimented with to achieve breakthroughs in results and costs.

Bloated Space from the same contractors with bloated military costs

Spacex is taking over in launch from ULA, Ariane. ULA is Lockheed and Boeing who are the main military aerospace contractors as well.

The Space Shuttle program cost about $200 billion for about 130 launches.

The Delta II had a launch cost of $51 million in 1989 and could launch 13000 pounds to low earth orbit.

The Delta IV heavy cost $400 million per launch in 2017 and can launch 64000 pounds to low earth orbit.

A basic heavy launcher should have been able to perform the Space Shuttle missions for about $13 billion with $7 billion for development.

The US spent over $30 billion on the Constellation Space program and the Space Launch System programs. There were no useful launches from those programs.

Spacex took technologies that have mainly existed from the 1970s and 1980s and has been able to properly execute. The concept of reusability was one of the primary goals of the space shuttle. The idea was to get Space Shuttle launch costs down to $5 million per launch. Instead the government chose to focus on getting jobs and facilities for building the Space Shuttle into the state of every Senator who was voting for the program. Space Shuttle launch costs were about $400 million to 1.5 billion per launch.

Spacex is showing that the
* military contractor costs are 10-20 times too high
* the development costs are 100 times too high and
* the time to develop is ten times too long.

This is in the space launch area and clearly applies to the missiles and to the aviation areas. It also applies in the areas of tanks and Navy ships.

The US Army has failed to successfully develop replacements for the Abrams tank for more than 25 years despite several expensive attempts.