Last presidential debate should touch on excessive spending on F-35 program

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

In the final days leading up to the Presidential Election, the focus of the two candidates should entirely be on policy and the issues impacting Americans, not mudslinging and personal attacks. The American people want a President whose actions will make their life better. That is why policy discussions should dominate the next three weeks leading up to the election.

The first presidential debate was dominated by interruptions and insults.  President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden were battling during the last debate over issues that included the potential packing of the Supreme Court and the future of taxation on the American people.  American voters will choose who they support based on the issues that impact their everyday lives, not on personal matters surrounding the candidates. They are not concerned about a fly interrupting Vice President Mike Pence’s answer to a question, but they do care about Pence’s discussion of the Green New Deal and the Democrats promise to end fracking. Issues matter and will end up deciding the election.

The big question going forward is the form of the last presidential debate. Will there be an opportunity to have a deeper discussion on foreign and domestic policy? The voters hope so, because they would like to know Biden’s plans for Afghanistan and President Trump’s economic plans to bring back jobs. Domestic policy will center on how the federal government should continue to respond to the coronavirus while figuring out a way to pay for all the trillions in new unanticipated spending necessary to stimulate the economy and combat the virus.

One of the biggest issues that seems to get little focus is the state of the national debt and how to address a growing federal government.  The New York Times reported on August 21, 2020, “at the end of last year, the United States was about $17 trillion in debt — roughly 80 percent of the gross domestic product. In January, government analysts predicted that debt would approach 100 percent of the G.D.P. around 2030. But by the end of June, the debt stood at $20.53 trillion, or roughly 106 percent of G.D.P., which shrank amid widespread stay-at-home orders. (These numbers don’t count trillions more the government owes itself in bonds held by the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.)” The national debt has exploded, and politicians have not committed to making the tough, cost cutting decisions on what spending needs to be reduced going forward.  This is an issue that deserves debate between the two candidates seeking to occupy the White House for the next four years.

One program that needs a second look is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, since it is expected to cost well over $1 trillion over the lifetime of the program. That type of an investment may have made sense in a time when the American taxpayer could afford more debt in exchange for additional security, yet this program has had so many problems that now it has become an unreliable tool of national security, while also being far too expensive for the taxpayer.

On the cost side, Bloomberg reported, that the Pentagon’s spending plan for the next 5 years for the program was “short by as much as $10 billion.” The original cost was estimated to be $78 billion “for research and development, jet procurement, operations and maintenance and military construction dedicated to the F-35,” yet the American taxpayers are getting saddled with another $10 billion over the next 10 years.  From a cost perspective, if a program keeps inflating at that rate, it is time to cut the program or reassess the need to renegotiate terms.

On the security side, this program has had numerous problems rendering the aircraft underutilized and unsafe. The General Accounting Office (GAO) put out a report in May of this year where they concluded the “F-35 program test officials had identified over 3,200 deficiencies.” Those problems include “specific instances where the weapon system either does not meet requirements or where the safety, suitability, or effectiveness of the weapon system could be affected.” There has been a big problem with a system used to replace spare parts and a design flaw that does not allow supersonic flight at extremely high altitudes because of heat buildup.  These design problems render the program in dire need of reform and a plan to stem the flow of money from the taxpayer to the government contractor building these expensive jets.

President Trump and former VP Biden should debate the future of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program so the voters can see who is going to provide a strong national defense while efficiently cutting waste, fraud, and abuse from the federal budget, including the Pentagon.


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Kent Alexander


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