The Plank

Army In The Red


CongressDaily (sus req) today has a dispiriting analysis of the Pentagon's just-released National Defense Budget Estimates for FY '08:

The impartial numbers show that [Lyndon] Johnson spent $2.1 trillion in FY08 dollars on the American military from FY64 through FY68 when both the Vietnam and Cold wars were raging. He put more than 500,000 troops on the ground in Vietnam from an active duty force of 3.5 million men and women, many of them low-cost draftees. Bush spent $2.5 trillion in the same FY08 dollars on military activities from FY03 through FY07, even though his expeditionary force in Iraq was only about one-fourth as big as Johnson's -- some 140,000 troopers -- and the Cold War was long gone.

The story there is the ballooning price of equipment and advanced weapons systems, whose contribution to the huge bottom line on appropriations like the Iraq supplemental and FY '08 defense requests has been forgotten amidst much gnashing of teeth over inappropriate aid for peanut storage. Here's some of the priciest equipment in demand:

The prices of other weapons in the Pentagon's latest SAR underscores the GAO's lament last month that Pentagon procurement is out of control. The [report] shows that taxpayers are expected to pay $300 billion for 2,458 Joint Strike Fighters, or $122 million each for a plane that the Pentagon originally advertised as bargain basement; $54.6 billion for 458 V-22 Ospreys, or $119 million each for this aerial taxi for the Marines ... and $93 billion for 30 Virginia class attack submarines despite the near demise of the once-threatening Russian undersea force, or $3.1 billion for one.

The Osprey, if you remember, is the helicopter/plane hybrid prone to falling out of the sky that has already killed 30 servicemen in development exercises.

--Eve Fairbanks

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