In a surprise move, a House Defense Appropriations subcommittee denied a request by the Pentagon to use funds from the “emergency” war budget (also known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account, or OCO) to buy eight F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
The war budget was set up by Congress to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now being used to pay for the air strikes against ISIS. Critics (including this blog) have long charged that Congress and the Pentagon have used the budget as a slush fund to pay for things not related to the wars.
This latest request by the Pentagon did not disappoint, and watchdog groups, including Taxpayers for Common Sense, called out the Pentagon for having the “chutzpah” to even try it. And Nukes of Hazard believes the Pentagon might be able to find “something” else to spend all of that war budget money on.
It should be noted that the F-35 is not yet combat ready and would not be able to take part in any war-related operations, anywhere, for years.
In his letter to the Pentagon denying the request, Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) stated:
“The Committee is concerned that OCO appropriations, which are provided by Congress specifically for ongoing combat operations and related efforts, are being utilized in this reprogramming to backfill budgetary shortfalls in acquisition program that have only tenuous links to the fight in Afghanistan and other current operations.”
Score one for us!
Taxpayers for Common Sense estimates that the total cost for “[d]eveloping, buying, basing, and maintaining the F-35 is currently estimated to cost close to one and a half trillion dollars.”
By all accounts the F-35 is the most expensive weapon in history. The program is 10 years behind schedule, 70 percent over budget, suffers from serious technical and structural problems, and has repeatedly failed to meet basic performance goals. Officials are still trying to figure out what caused an engine fire that grounded the planes for much of the summer.