We have all heard about “Too Big To Fail” (TBTF) banks and the problems caused by bailing them out of the holes they dug themselves into. While many have focused on the obscene amount of money used to paper over the damage caused by their greed and stupidity, the real problem with TBTF lies in the effect of such bailouts on the intended function of those institutions.
Organizations, institutions and systems that are incapable of performing their intended roles, for any reason, are effectively non-existent.
Now consider recent reports about the multitude of problems facing expensive weapon systems such as the F-22, F-35 and the “Long-Range Strike Bomber“. It seems that almost every major weapon program in the developed world is creating weapons that are much more expensive and less capable than promised. I would go so far as to wonder if these weapons would ever be used in a future conflict due to issues with cost and reliability, let alone the lack of the right type of enemy.
Before we go any further, let me be clear about one thing. Significant cost overruns, serious teething problems and delivering less than promised is hardly new in the area of new weapons systems. Infact, it is almost seen as normal. What is somewhat new is the cost of weapon systems increasing to a level where using them is more than not using them.
Let me explain the concept by using the F-22 as an example. Can you think of any scenario where the overall cost and risk of using the F-22 in a combat role is a feasible option? and does the USA have enough of them to make a difference? Now ask yourself- is spending over 70 billion on a weapon system that has a history of multiple severe glitches really worth it? Isn’t a weapon system that is too expensive to use almost as good as one that does not exist? Contrast this with aircraft such as the F-4s, F-14s, F-15s, F-16s, F-18s which were still cheap and plentiful enough to use.
Still not convinced? Consider the whole F-35 program. Let us ignore that fact that the whole program been repeatedly delayed and the end product is rather underwhelming. Let us also forget that the whole program will cost over 2 trillion dollars. The real question is- who are we going to use it against? Remember that the per unit cost of the F-35 is now over 250 million dollars. Even with monetary inflation, a hanger queen with a price tag of over a quarter billion dollars seems a bit excessive for use against some guys in a cinder-block house in Waziristan. It is also essentially useless against any country with more than a few dozen nuclear weapons. So why spend over 2 trillion on something we never intend to use? In an age when the next generation is buried under a trillion dollars of debt, the tax base is imploding and the future for the average american looks bleak- is spending 2 trillion on something that will benefit a few thousand people really the best use of taxpayer dollars?
Then there is the “Long-Range Strike Bomber“.. It is supposed to be some super-stealthy long-range bomber/reconnaissance aircraft aimed at emerging adversaries such as China. Let us ignore the fact we already have the B-2 bomber which is, once again, somewhat of a hanger queen. What can this bomber do that cannot be done with a long endurance unmanned space plane such as the X-37 or a UACV such as the Phantom Ray? Wouldn’t an unmanned weapon system that cost a fraction of these ‘to be developed’ manned-unmanned bombers be much more likely to be used in real conflicts? But if that is the case- what is the point of potential spending a few trillion more on another white elephant?
In my opinion, weapon systems that are too expensive to use are worse than useless.
What do you think? Comments?