The squeeze is on at the Pentagon. And there are some deep-rooted procurement problems that are going to have to be fixed if we hope to get maximum bang for the buck.
The simple fact is that US military procurement is a mess. As National Defense magazine points out in an important piece, there has been little accountability in the past for weapons system cost overruns. When the costs rise, the Pentagon has simply gone back to congress to get more money. That’s not going to work in tight fiscal times. There are major weapons systems across the services that needed to be upgraded. And many of them should have been already. The US Army has started 15 major weapons system programs that were ultimately canceled. As National Defense points out, the Marines spent $4 billion developing an expeditionary fighting vehicle that was canceled last year. The Navy needs to desperately modernize its fleet. The defense budget doubled over the past decade but military equipment was rarely modernized. These fighter jets are predominantly from the Reagan-era. And the navy is literally shrinking because it can’t replace old ships. Ten years ago we had 316 ships–that is down to 288 today. And the US Air Force? Here are the sad facts of our aged air fleet:
–tactical aviation planes are on average 22 years old;
–the bomber fleet is an average of 35 years;
–tankers are 47 years;
–and electronic warfare craft are 37 years old on average.
Pretty soon our major weapons systems will be eligible to join AARP.
Having a more efficient military needs to begin with seriously reforming the Pentagon’s procurement program.