The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

F-35: More Money, More Problems

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The acquisition misadventures of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program have been well-documented.  In development for nearly 17 years and seven years behind schedule, the program is approximately $173 billion over budget and has encountered an abundance of persistent issues.  An April 2015 Government Accountability Office report noted that the lifetime operation and maintenance costs of the most expensive weapon system in history will total approximately $1 trillion. 

One of the fundamental problems with the F-35 program can be traced to the decision to operate program development and procurement simultaneously.  This meant that whenever problems were identified, contractors needed to go back and make changes to aircraft that were already assembled, adding to overall costs. 

As in each preceding year, 2018 has brought more bad news for the F-35.  A May 2018 report produced by the House Armed Services Committee revealed that the Naval variety of the JSF, the F-35C, may lack sufficient range to function adequately in a future war.

Remarkably, before the aircraft has even been used in combat by the United States, some in Congress are now looking to replace the F-35C altogether.

Of course, the plethora of JSF deficiencies has not stopped the Pentagon from asking for funding, and members of Congress from supplying it, sometimes even exceeding requests from the Department of Defense. 

Unfortunately, this trend repeated itself in fiscal year (FY) 2018.  Rather than asking pressing questions as to whether the F-35 remains worthy of further commitment, members of Congress provided earmarks for 20 additional aircraft in the FY 2018 budget, which will be detailed in Citizens Against Government Waste’s Pig Book, released on July 18, 2018.  

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