Friday, August 22, 2014

This is Not the Jobs Program You Are Looking For

Or at least it isn't the one you should be looking for if you want something with waste approaching a rationally low level of waste. After all, no project undertaken by humans will be perfect. But using massive "defense" projects as job projects is more wasteful than usual. But there's wasteful and then there's two of the most disgraceful excuses for defense programs in existence that have, so far as I can tell, continue to exist and grow solely because of jobs. First up, that favorite that has received tons of bad press, the F-35. It has been featured on 60 Minutes in a relative puff piece, slammed as not really being stealthy in The Daily Beast, had its multiple software glitches pointed out in the IEEE Spectrum (The newsletter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.), and most directly for what I'm pointing out in this post, the Washington post has a column pointing out that the entire problem riddled program shows the complete hypocrisy of anyone who claims to be worried about the deficit even as they push for this program to continue. As pointed out in the Plum Line column:
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was supposed to extend American air superiority deep into the 21st century. The F-35 was designed to evade not just enemy fighters, but political accountability as well. Its subcontracts were spread out over 1,300 separate companies in 45 states, ensuring that members of Congress from throughout the land have an interest in keeping the project going. It’s an incredibly poor way to create jobs (depending on how you count, a single job supported by the F-35 costs the taxpayer as much as $8 million). We’ll spend around $400 billion to build the planes — nearly twice what the program was supposed to cost when it began. When this happens, nobody gets punished or held “accountable.” We just keep shoveling taxpayer money into the Lockheed coffers. And that doesn’t count the cost of repairing and maintaining the planes, which could push the cost past $1 trillion over time.
Then comes this gem courtesy of iO9. Something about the idea of spending billions to roll out a missile defense system whose functionality is still highly questionable is a pretty big waste of money as well. Even an L.A. Times article pointing out the success of a test in June included this confidence building section.
Sunday's test carried high stakes for the system, called GMD, which was declared operational a decade ago and has so far cost about $40 billion. A failure could have sharpened skepticism among members of Congress about the missile shield's reliability and cost. Before Sunday, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency had conducted 16 tests of the system's ability to intercept and destroy a target. Eight had ended in failure. Sunday's outcome may ease doubts but is unlikely to dispel them entirely. The test, like all previous ones, was carefully staged: Specialists operating the system knew the target's precise dimensions, expected trajectory, speed and time of launch — information they would not have in combat conditions.
Now, as a science fiction fan, techie and all around lover of cool technological toys I have nothing against amazing defense technology. When it works and when it can actually be deployed at a cost somewhere in the same solar system as the original estimate. But when utter garbage like these projects and the many others that have been foisted off onto the American public over the last few decades in the name not only of defending the country but in the name of jobs that have carefully been distributed to key congressional districts then I don't like them even a little bit. I cannot help but wonder how many bridges, roads, sewer systems, water systems and other vital parts of our national infrastructure could be repaired with that wasted money. There are a lot of things that need to be done in this country and programs that produce far too few jobs for far too much money hurt us, they don't help us. Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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