The F-35 fighter program is a technological marvel, but as president-elect Trump has suggested, it doesn’t need to cost as much as it does. Somewhere between 20-30% of program costs result from compliance with government regulations — regulations that in many cases add nothing to the performance of the aircraft. In addition, the Obama Administration has consistently failed to purchase the fighters at an economical rate. At first the administration said the fighter needed more work, but it gradually became clear the program was being used as a bill-payer for other things. However, you aren’t likely to get a bargain on planes if you build them like Bentleys rather than Ford F-150s. President-elect Trump will soon have the power to change these and other wasteful buying practices, turning the Pentagon’s biggest program into a model for how all weapons should be bought. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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