This Week at War: The Jet That Ate the Pentagon

The F-35 is cutting into the Defense Department's most important priorities.

Here is the latest edition of my column at Foreign Policy:

Topics include:

1) Policymakers get 11th-hour second thoughts on the Joint Strike Fighter

2) Defense cuts will mean more risk. Is the Marine Corps the Pentagon's best hedge?

Policymakers get 11th-hour second thoughts on the Joint Strike Fighter

The troubled and long-delayed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program came under renewed scrutiny this week. The Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and many foreign partners plan to buy thousands of the fighter-attack jets over the next two decades to replace a variety of aging aircraft, but the development schedule of the stealthy fighter has slipped five years to 2018 and the projected cost to the Pentagon for 2,457 aircraft has ballooned to $385 billion, making it by far the most expensive weapons program in history.

The Government Accountability Office reported that although Pentagon management of the program is improving, developers have only completely verified 4 percent of the F-35's capabilities. The program received another blow this week when the Senate Armed Services Committee learned that the Pentagon will likely have to spend $1 trillion over the next 50 years to operate and maintain the fleet of F-35s. Evidently reeling from sticker shock, Sen. John McCain demanded that "we at least begin considering alternatives." But is it too late to prevent the F-35 program from devouring the Pentagon's future procurement budgets?

Air Force officials themselves may now doubt the wisdom of the size of the commitment to the F-35. According to a recent Aviation Week story, Air Force Undersecretary Erin Conaton placed new emphasis on the importance of the Air Force's next-generation long-range bomber. With procurement funds sure to be tight in the decade ahead, Conaton hinted that the Air Force may have to raid the F-35's future budgets in order to help pay for the new bomber.

The rapidly changing strategic situation in Asia and the western Pacific should compel policymakers to reexamine the size of the commitment to the F-35. Yet another critical report on the F-35 from the Pentagon's acquisition office dated Dec. 31, 2010, revealed that the Air Force version of the attack jet would have a combat mission radius of 584 miles, just short of the original stated requirement of 590 miles, and significantly less than a recent expectation by program officials that the jet would be able to strike targets 690 miles away without midair refueling.

A combat radius of 584 miles leaves planners with few options when contemplating operations over the vast distances in the Asia-Pacific region. As I discussed in a recent column, China's growing inventories of ballistic and cruise missiles are already capable, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, of striking the U.S. Air Force's main bases in the region. These missiles are also putting the Navy's aircraft carriers increasingly at risk, which could compel the Navy to move the vessels out of the F-35's strike range.

The solution is combat aircraft with much longer ranges, which would operate from distant bases less vulnerable to missile attack. This would explain Conaton's increased emphasis on the new long-range bomber and the Navy's interest in a long-range combat drone that would launch from its aircraft carriers and some of its amphibious ships.

There are still significant roles for the F-35 and many of its leading-edge stealth and electronic capabilities. The F-35 can defend against enemy aircraft, can collect and distribute intelligence from over a battlefield, and can attack heavily defended targets within its range. In any case, the program is "too big to fail," or at least "too big to kill," and it is far too late in the day to now consider alternatives. But it seems increasingly likely that the Air Force and Navy will eventually truncate their planned purchases and redirect those savings into new long-range platforms. Doing so would cause the unit cost of the F-35 to spike even higher which would likely lead many foreign partners to drop out. But that regrettable consequence may be necessary if the Air Force and Navy are to have the money to buy capabilities that will actually be useful in the vast stretches of the Pacific.

Defense cuts will mean more risk. Is the Marine Corps the Pentagon's best hedge?

At remarks delivered at a recent dinner sponsored by the Center for a New American Security, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos asserted that the Marine Corps will be one of the country's principal risk management tools in the decade ahead. Inevitable cuts to the Pentagon's budgets will require policymakers to take greater security risks, but Amos argued that the Marine Corps's unique attributes will provide a useful hedge against some of the added risks policymakers will have to assume. Amos argues that the Marine Corps's broad portfolio of capabilities and organizational culture make it particularly well-suited to respond to unknown risks. Is the Marine Corps a good hedge against strategic risk? And what can Amos and his colleagues do to improve the Corps as a risk management tool?

In an earlier column, I discussed the Marine Corps's plan for its post-Afghanistan future. That plan calls for cuts to many of its conventional frontline combat capacities and increased investments in some specialized and irregular capabilities. Marine Corps planners are betting that they won't get bogged down in another large, open-ended campaign such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither will they have to fight another big tank battle as they did against Saddam Hussein in 1991. With the new force structure, the planners are optimizing the Corps for rapid crisis response, dust-ups with murky but dangerous "hybrid" non-state actors, and for assisting and partnering with allied military forces around the world.

Hedging and risk management are all about preparing for surprises. Although a seemingly oxymoronic concept, leaders can promote attributes that enhance an organization's ability to rapidly adapt to surprises. Surprises are by definition unknowable. But organizations can prepare for surprise by improving their ability to adapt.

Amos asserts that the Marine Corps has a balanced portfolio of wide-ranging capabilities, which its planners can tailor to meet a variety of contingencies. The Marines train in many climates and terrain, also preparing them for numerous possibilities. And Amos explained how the Corps plans to become lighter and more mobile after Afghanistan, improving its response time during crises.

These are all helpful attributes for rapid adaptation. But the most powerful attributes of adaptation are intangible and are found within an organization's culture and human capital. For example, organizations that are "confidently paranoid" respect the threats posed by their competitors while retaining the confidence to devise effective solutions. Adaptable organizations decentralize decision-making and expect subordinates to take responsibility for solving problems with little guidance from above, even when this results in "learning mistakes" and inefficiencies. Adaptable organizations reward subordinates for creativity and resist punishing those whose ideas failed or wasted resources. Adaptable organizations tolerate "organizational entrepreneurs" and the messy organization charts that can result.

Perhaps most notably, adaptable organizations require seemingly wasteful redundancy, healthy budgets for education and rotational assignments, and experimentation, much of which will go awry. Preparing for surprise requires a willingness to accept failed approaches, recruiting and then letting go people who aren't suitable, and what will appear to be much wasted overhead.

The Marine Corps takes pride in the development of its junior leaders and in the amount of responsibility it places on them. But how much the Marine Corps has tolerated the inevitable learning mistakes, inefficiencies, and messiness required for effective adaptation has varied over time. Building an adaptable organizational culture for the Marine Corps may not be cheap. But it may be cheap if it avoids a future military disaster.

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When the drones pop out of the hatches of stealthy, prepositioned delivery vehicles and swarm the F35's by a ratio of 25:1 we will all wonder what enemy we were really plannning to fight.

Here is a link to an article published in Foreign Policy on 4-26-2012, a few days ago, entitled "The Jet That Ate The Pentagon." (People seem to like that title.)

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/26/the_jet_that_ate_the_pe...

It is interesting because the author minces no words, he opines that it should be canceled now, period; and he got it published in a sort of main stream outlet not devoted to airplanes.

What fighter triad are you talking about? Does it include the AV-8? If so that is one of the fundamental problems with the whole program. Too late now though probably. Gates doesn't seem to like the B model though so maybe that will go away at least. There is nothing cheap about the F-35, and nothing about it will get cheaper. The old airplanes got to be replaced but lets not fool ourselves about the F-35 doing it cheaper. You can say it all you want but I won't believe it and judging by the escalation in price year after year it is wise I don't.

I believe the original goal of the A model range was 690 nm. The thing can't even make the minimum of 590 nm. Are you talking 615 nm with the tanks being bone dry? If so that probably isn't a good figure to plan around.

Well actually the range of an F-111 is relevant. If you are an Aussie and want to plan a mission to a distant destination, in 1990 you could get there. In 2020, assuming they buy the thing, they won't be able to get there. The ability to sling trons doesn't do much good if the target is 200 nm beyond your radius. I wonder though if the F-111s weren't all worn out and gone, if the ability to go a long way with a big load at 200 ft agl at close to the speed of sound might not still prove useful.

E-2s and AWACS may be in the area to support the F-35. But then again the J-20s and Pak FAs may have shot them all down and the F-35s may not be able to do much to prevent it. The little light bomber that wants to doesn't have the flight performance and perhaps not the range to catch those things.

Don't using my Gripen example in an apples to oranges way. I brought it up to show that it is possible to have remote basing without the huge expense and hassle of VTOL, not to compare capabilities of the two aircraft. The Swedes train operate off roads and their airplane is set up for it. Do we? I don't know.

What on earth was 5) and 6)? I got lost. Range is important. If you ain't got it you can't get there or hang around much no matter how stealthy you are.

Envisioning an UNCLASS (I am assuming that is some kind of drone. I missed the last acronym class.) doing marvelous things is great fun but until somebody realistically demonstrates that it can be done, who cares? Computer graphically illustrated conceptions don't blow things up.

An F-22 at supercruise could reinforce a lot of things but there will only be 183 of them and unless they can be in 3 places at the same time that isn't enough to matter.

Yes an F-18 does have a helmet mounted display, but comparing that to what the helmet display of an F-35 is supposed to handle is like comparing a typewriter to word recognition programmed printer. They are hardly the same and to imply because one is being done the other will be done is deceptive.

Like I said before, buying fighters to keep the reserve pilots interested is a lousy reason to spend a lot of money. They are there to serve the military needs of the country. The country isn't there to give them a cool weekend ride.

10) Remember that the little light bomber only has two missiles, or maybe four if it isn't carrying any bombs. How by any stretch of the imagination is the F-35 small? The MiG-21 was small. The various SUs may be huge but the F-35 isn't small. I know next to nothing about visual fights in modern jets but I talked to a guy once and he said if everybody in a viaual fight is equipped with a Python 5 type missile, everybody would be killed. From that I gathered you best stay out of a visual fight. Performance may help with that.

Remember, the UCLASS is a fairy tale so far.

The F-35 isn't cheap and won't be cheap. The question is not whether we waste the money sunk into it. The question is whether pouring more money into it will get us combat capability that we need; or might that money be better spent on something else that will give us something the F-35 might never be able to provide.

It's almost all moot now. We're most likely stuck with the thing. I hope it works like advertised and doesn't turn out the be the 21st century equivalent of the Fairy Battle.

1) Any way you look at it Carl, the fighter triad must be replaced now thanks to the Clinton-era procurement holiday. F-35 does it cheaper.

2) 6 nm represents 40 seconds of flight time and as mentioned the true radius is more like 615 nm when the 5% margin is added. The F-111, F/A-18E/F. and F-15E and SE would not penetrate advanced air defenses or fighter caps so their penetration range is irrelevant.

3) F-35s and UCLASS would have advanced radars talking to each other and other teams; E-2Cs and AWACS would be nearby and would have data links compatible with F-35 unlike F-22. You plan logistics and support and have the rotorcraft/trucks to support that primitive site contingency. You still can use the roads for short take-off and landing without securing 10,000 of road.

4) Gripen would not survive modern fighters or air defenses.

5) Actually, suspect its wishful thinking to believe a large bomber could fly/loiter over Russia/China territory in daylight without being shot down. APA L-band claims and the F-117 lost over Serbia may reinforce that some radars/tech could at least ascertain the proximate location of aircraft to divert fighters to that location. Since bombers flying without escorts would primarily fly at night, you would simply hide your mobile targets at night and park them hugging civilian areas. Is China densely populated? Think the Chinese will be kind enough to park their military and valued civil gear away from civilian areas?

6) Range is irrelevant if your 4th gen aircraft cannot survive over enemy territory. Stealth bombers are irrelevant against moving TBM and other military targets that gasp... move and hide. You can EBO stationary targets with stand-off cruise missiles all day long. If you want to loiter over enemy territory looking for mobile TBM (the poor countrys air force) and other military targets, you better be able to survive both air defenses AND stealth fighters. Attack the aggression... not the civilian targets... the cowardly way out.

7) Envision a jamming UCLASS that mirrors the moves of its manned wingman and has rear and side-facing sensors/missiles to protect the manned aircraft's six, nine, and three. Leave the air combat maneuver thinking to the manned aircraft. F-22s at supercruise would reinforce the manned/unmanned team in seconds. Also use UCLASS as a forward picket radar, jammer, and an AMRAAM/AIM-9X truck.

8) Aerial refueling already is required from Guam or any other land-base within range of current and future 1000-2000nm TBM. UCLASS could refuel their manned wingman, as well, just as F/A-18E/F buddy fuel with up to 29,000 lbs of JP5. F/A-18E/F also has a helmet-mounted display so that is neither a new or unfixable problem. But imagine engineering R&D and fixes for three separate helmets for three different aircraft.

9) Reserve component aviators are an excellent reason for having thousands of fighters. Those flying skills once gained at considerable cost are easily retained in the reserve component. How many airline pilots will be interested in signing up to fly Reapers/MQ-X...especially as they become more automated by necessity.

10) Remember that F-35 has far better air maneuver capability and acceleration than an aircraft loaded down with external stores. AMRAAM and AESA radar are not your Vietnam-era technology and a smaller, agile fighter that is hard to lock-onto will be superb within visual range as well... especially when they fix that helmet and integrate AIM-9X. Remember that you have that UCLASS AMRAAM-truck as back-up and for jamming and the fewer F-22s are nearby at supercruise.

11) Keep in mind that the cost of engines is often hidden in the price of modern aircraft. Dont believe the cost of two engines is included in the oft-cited $143 million per F-22 and those engines are close to $20 million each IIRC. The single engine F-35 cost is included in its average price of $113 million... .and the sole reason it is that high is the higher cost of the F-35B/C.

12) The F/A-18E/F will be around for years as will some F-15E. But neither will provide day one or first several week air-to-ground. Some mobile radar air defenses could be around hiding for a long time against near-peer threats. F-35 can survive those threats while 4th gen aircraft may not.

13) The $1 trillion is immaterial because a) it is inaccurate, b) the true price is cheaper than having three completely different sets of fighters, and c) it is affordable when inflation is considered. I paid $5,000 for my first new car in 1975. Today the same-quality new car would be $25-30,000. Incomes and federal tax revenues will not be the same in 2050 as they are now. The cost of gas will climb but a single-engine F-35 will use less fuel than a twin-engine aircraft that does not actually spend all its time at supercruise to appear more fuel efficient to range.

14) LRIP 4 and 5 will both be cheaper than CAPE estimates by a considerable margin. The B-model is on probation and will either get fixed or will be killed in which case the average F-35 price will drop. Does it make sense to drop $50 billion in R&D when the goal is so near? Do you have confidence that 6th gen aircraft would be any cheaper or that Next Gen bomber will have accurate and low cost estimates... or that EBO is an effective strategy in an era where collateral damage is no longer acceptable?

Ah. All the reasons why the little light bomber that can't will actually be able to because nothing else could. This argument has been going on for years and primarily consist of one side saying it will be able to, you gotta believe us; and the other side saying it hasn't yet and we doubt it ever will. The cheaper part isn't really believed by anybody except Lockheed. It will come in at least as expensive as the F-22.

I have much less knowledge that you Move Forward (you are free to use that as a straight line) but there are a couple of things I would note.

1. It is a red herring saying the little light bomber that wants to is cheaper because it would replace 3 airplanes. Some people say the biggest problem with the thing is that it seeks replace 3 airplanes with one. If it had not been required to have the VTOL capability things would have gone a lot smoother, but the Marines have a lot of influence.

2. A range shortfall is a range shortfall. You can spin it whatever way you want it but the thing is no F-111.

3. You may be able to land on an amphib but can the E-2Cs land on the amphib too? If they can't then how are you going to know what is going on in the area unless there is a big deck carrier around? You can hide in primitive sites but will you have the logistics and support required at all those primitive sites? If not, all you are doing is hiding. The countries you mentioned all have extensive road nets and you could hide just as well using road sections, like the Gripen, at a fraction of the cost of VTOL. The design compromises you have to make to get VTOL are killer.

4. The small atoll idea would work just as well with a fighter like the Gripen. But we can't do that now because we decided VTOL is a good idea and we will never undecide that.

5. This point is just silly. If a long range bomber required fighter escort you wouldn't need the darn thing. I assume you are thinking of something like escorted bomber formations. Try hiding those from SAMs, or eyeballs.

6. This point is an attempt to diminish the importance of range to the operations of military aircraft. The entire history of air combat argues against that. Range gives you options and time. That is always important.

7. Give me an example of an unmanned wingman actually working somewhere somehow, especially in something as dynamic as high performance fighter ops.? Great concept and may even be workable in 100 years.

8. Wouldn't detecting TBMs (tactical ballistic missiles, not General Motors produced torpedo bombers I presume) be greatly enhanced by having an aircraft that had range and persistence? The F-35 is falling a bit short in that respect. As far as the distributed aperture system goes, I believe that depends on the helmet mounted sight which they are having a bit of trouble with.

9. Giving the reserves an airplane to fly around on weekends is not a good argument for buying airplanes. If a big bomber makes more sense and there are not enough for the reserves to fly they will have to live with it.

10. & 11. The problem is the little light bomber was designed as that, a light bomber. I don't believe it was designed as an air to air weapon, that was secondary. Maybe it will work good like that. A lot of people don't think so. I hope those trons do their stuff because it doesn't have the flight performance to take on the J-20 and the Pak FA.

12. F-35s are better than F-22s air to ground, no one disputes that. But why are you comparing the two? The choice isn't between F-22s and F-35s air to ground, the choice is between say an F-18 or F-15 and an F-35 air to ground. Those airplanes can do the same things you say the F-35 can do to my knowledge.

13. This point is immaterial. If we ain't got the dollars now, we ain't got 'em now. It don't matter what inflation adjustment calculations say about 1981.

14. Lockheed believes those high cost figures are not accurate. Well that settles it then. Lockheed said so.

F-35s are a game changer all right. We may end up with a little light bomber that will cost as much or more than the F-22. And it will be late.

I suppose an F-35 will be able to tell that new built school is there while it is dodging air defenses and running short on time and fuel. Those trons are reputed to be magical.

We are most likely stuck with the damn things though. Too many important people would be embarrassed for it to be made to go away. And I hope it will be all you think it will be, but I doubt it.

I have no relationship to the F-35 program or its owning services and zero access to classified information about it... just like Air Power Australia and most of the F-35 naysayers. Still believe that F-35s are essential because:

1) A program replacing legacy aircraft from 3 services is essentially 3 separate costly programs combined into one. Unstated is the high probability that combined R&D for three totally different stealth aircraft types would exceed the F-35s $50+ billion, as would its production and O&S costs. Think you have some hardware/software complaints now? Try hiring three separate sets of engineers/programmers resulting in three diverse sets of problems. Unlike F-35, there would be no common solution for all three separate aircraft types.

2) The F-35A range shortfall complaint of 6 nm ignores that both the Marine and Navy models exceed requirements as does the A model when the 5% reserve is added back in, currently not being included. The bulk of all trouble has been with the Marine version yet the Air Force and Navy versions seem to get lumped in as just as problematic. That only 4% of testing has been completed ignores that all models but the B are ahead of testing schedule.

3) Unlike F-22s, JSF versions can land on carriers or amphibious ships, overcoming the easier targeting of land runways/ramps by TBMs. STOVL versions double the number of sea basing options from 11 to 22. The Marine version also allows aircraft to hide at primitive sites on Japan and South Korea to preclude TBM targeting. Cost estimates for Guam, Korea, and Okinawa moves could be as high as $45 billion and Japans recent earthquake hampers its abilities to contribute toward that cost. F-35Bs in hardened shelters (or constantly moved) could take-off/land without TBM-cratered runways.

4) In the new-idea realm, hardened catapult/hook strips on small islands could substitute for carriers, aerial refueling, and major base moves. Place hardened concrete shelters over catapult land-launch and land-hook recoveries and build underground hangars for F-35 carrier versions. Employ GPS and other jammers, and multi-spectral smoke to prevent precise targeting. Small islands worked in WWII. Why did we abandon them other than Guam where runways are still vulnerable?

5) Long range bombers may or may not require fighter escorts due to air threats. If they do (day and possibly night flights deep over China/Russia), bombers are range restricted to the range of fighter escorts. This would indicate a need for a next gen bomber that possibly does both bombing and aerial refueling. That would be a pricier next gen bomber limiting bomb or fuel payload (or both)

6) Deep penetration of China or Russia may be non-essential using manned aircraft or large UAS. Attempting such penetration may invite nuclear retaliation or at least major attack of mainland U.S. targets using container-look-like cruise missiles and special ops emplaced bombs. Loitering concepts over enemy territory with unmanned bombers invite fighter shoot-down if L-Band radar can detect proximate stealth aircraft locations as APA repeatedly claims. If F-22/F-35 and current bombers with standoff weapons can hit targets attempting to invade Taiwan or Ukraine, that is far less threatening than deep penetration by bombers and fighters.

7) F-35 complements UCLASS unmanned fighters used for jamming, picket lines, possible aerial refueling, and ground target attack by offering manned-unmanned teaming using data links like MADL. UCLASS offers potential as an unmanned wingman to single F-35s at lower altitude and with lesser stealth to double sorties with at least one manned aircraft. A second manned aircraft/UCLASS team could converge rapidly from another picket location for reinforcement just as police converge to back-up other officers. The era of manned wingman may be obsolete and wasteful.

8) The F-35 distributed aperture system, IR search/track, and EO/IR/laser capability is better suited to detecting and eventually targeting TBM launches and mobile launchers due to the heat of launch, particularly when teamed with MADL-capable UCLASS carrying anti-TBM missiles (pure speculation)

9) F-35s retain reserve component aviator expertise. Those who fly airliners during the week and patrol the U.S. on weekends constitute a strong augmentation of all air arms. Next generation bombers and bomber locations would be far fewer in number and would not as easily accommodate reserve aviators living in many locations.

10) A 4th generation augmentation of F-35s would require legacy O&S support for many decades to come and could require another 10-15 years of old aircraft that are obsolete against the J-20, Pak FA, and S-400/500 the moment they come off the assembly line. The argument against too many aircraft-types in a KC-X split-buy also applies to fighters.

11) Any combination of 4th gen/F-35s, all F-35s, and F-22s/4th gen aircraft would be about the same cost...in the neighborhood of $12-13 billion annually. The F-22/4th gen combination does nothing to modernize the sea portion of the fighter triad. A combination of F-35s and more F-22s would be far more costly. A Next Gen bomber or UCLASS/MQ-X substitute for F-35s is an unknown. Nobody could accurately estimate those costs and model realistic capabilities as a F-35 substitute, especially for air-to-air.

12) F-35s are simply better at air-to-ground because they fly lower and have a built-in EO/IR systems and laser designator making positive ID easier and reducing risk of collateral damage and fratricide. Their systems can interface with current JTAC ROVER. F-35 flies lower and slower as well, and can be equipped with radios to communicate with the ground...an unlikely feature on F-22. If you want to keep A-10C and buy a few less F-35As that is one argument. Saying that F-22s can perform tactical air-to-ground is a non-starter.

13) The red herring claim of $1 trillion for F-35 O&S is exaggerated and even if it was accurate (its not according to Mr. Carter), it overlooks that two-thirds fewer F-15s (750+) had the O&S cost equivalent of 2457 F-35 O&S when inflation is considered!

14) CAPE estimates since 2008 have greatly overestimated LRIP F-35 costs. LockMart and Ashton Carter also seem to believe the $1 trillion O&S cost for F-35 is unrealistic

F-35s are game changers because they overwhelm rogue nation capability to afford or procure effective Chinese/Russian defenses in any numbers. They simply lack an adequate defense budget due to high prices or can't buy the systems due to sanctions. F-35s also match/surpass near-peer attempts to field similar stealth aircraft in quantities. The F-22 cannot fill that function because it is unaffordable in large numbers. Allies cannot buy F-22s but can buy F-35s to reduce our trade deficit and increase deterrence.

Next Gen bombers are inadequate due to factors mentioned above. Unmanned assets and cruise missiles are insufficient due to moving/hugging targets that preclude simple program-and-forget missions. Satellite control of UAS over China/Russia probably wont work. Stealthy advanced cruise missiles like JASSM-ER can be fired from current stand-off B-52, B-1B, closer flying B-2s, and multiple surface vessels and submarines. But hit a grid coordinate next to a new school on nobodys map...news at 11. Strike a target purposely surrounded by civilians...leads on CNN. Hit decoys designed to attract high priced munitions and aircraft...dont we look dumb.

We cant put the stealth genie back in bottle any more than WMD, IEDs, or advanced air defenses. Stealth increases costs of adapting to our technology. Simple weapons like old MANPAD and air defense guns were so prevalent because they were cheap and fighters used to fly low. Start talking J-20, and Pak FA and costs grow exponentially. Same for missiles for air defenses and fighters to both locate and actually hit low observable aircraft.

So the little light bomber that could be all things to all men at all times, can't. Yet we're stuck with it because we've spent so much on it but because of that we won't be able to get enough of them because that would cost too much and we need the money to buy something that can actually do something. And to think we used to be able to make airplanes.

Another excellent column.

RE: F-35, "too big to fail" shouldn't be an excuse; the trillion dollar commitment will certainly undermine the imperative to be adaptive, as highlighted in the second column. See P. Singer in recent AFJ explaining how the USMC will be better for canceling the EFV, another too big to fail mess. Approaching the point where one industrial program is defining a key component of the national security future is ludicrous -- see Maginot Line, France, 1940.

RE: If any entity is be the trailblazer in this imminent era of defense budget austerity then it will be the USMC. My only question - how do cyber capabilities help the USMC fulfill its ambitions to be a "middleweight" fighter and rapid response. Let NSA and CYBERCOM provide those capabilities and let the institution remain a service hospitable to "every Marine a rifleman"