So much for the ‘age of austerity.’ While in the middle of dealing with the trillion-dollar boondoggle known as the F-35 project, the Department of Defense has committed to spend another $80 billion on bomber it does not need. The next generation long range strike bomber (LRS-B) will be the first new bomber since the Cold War.
The contract from the US Air Force was awarded to Northrop Grumman, who beat out Lockheed Martin and Boeing to build a bomber that is not expected to be operational until the 2020s. The current estimated cost for the bombers is $564 million each (and you can expect that number to go up).
The onerous budget commitment comes while the US is in no danger whatsoever of losing air supremacy, and has no serious peer competitors in the space. No other country is even within striking distance of US bomber technology, and the US is already spending more than the combined military spending of China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy and Brazil.
So why commit to an $80 billion bomber? Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the bomber will form “the backbone of the Air Force’s future strike and deterrence capability.” Chief of Staff for the Air Force, General Mark Welsh, went on to say, “We have committed to the American people to provide security in the skies, balanced by our responsibility to affordably use taxpayer dollars in doing so. This program delivers both while ensuring we are poised to face emerging threats in an uncertain future.”
Beyond the contradiction of ensuring you can face an uncertain threat, is the ridiculous claim that DoD is affordably using taxpayer dollars. The Pentagon is incredibly wasteful and financially mismanaged, and has been unable to even audit its own books for over 20 years.
In 2002, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly admitted that, “According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” It was also reported at the time that DoD could not account for as much of 25% of the funds it was spending, something that there is no evidence to suggest was ever remedied.
This was all before the Pentagon started dumping piles of cash into the F-35 financial black hole, wacky surveillance blimps, and now an $80 billion “next generation” bomber. At some point, the US military-industrial-congressional complex is going to have to accept it’s running an arms race with itself.