The Pentagon’s $10-billion bet gone bad

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by hulugu, Apr 6, 2015.

  1. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #1
    After $10-billion in expenditures, the Pentagon still doesn't have a viable missile defense program according to a new piece in the L.A. Times.

    The article "The Pentagon’s $10-billion bet gone bad" focused on the SBX, a floating radar platform that was supposed to help intercept North Korean missiles, but the radar's limitations meant that operators were looking through a soda straw.

    Other problems, including rust corrosion and a lack of survivability has meant the Pentagon has spent $2.2 billion on a project largely considered a flop by analysts.

    Meanwhile, other parts of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency have failed:

    The sidebar article, discussing how Congressional pressure helped fund the MDA's failed programs is also worth reading.
     
  2. vrDrew macrumors 65816

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    #2
    There is little doubt that a great deal of our Defense Budget gets wasted.

    But I think it important to recognize that developing cutting-edge weapons systems is an inherently risky proposition. And that assumptions made in the planning or budgeting phase do sometimes differ widely from the end result. That doesn't excuse the political calculus that goes into awarding procurement contracts.

    But it also needs to be recognized that American industry and commerce, to say nothing of greater scientific knowledge itself, don't - in the long run - profit from the lessons learned in many expensive boondoggles.

    One (not well appreciated) fact is that the oil and gas industry learned incredible lessons from the CIA Project Azorian, which spent a couple of billion 1970s dollars in an (only partially successful) attempt to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the depths of the Pacific ocean. Naval engineers learned how to accurately position a ship in turbulent waters; and how to drop a pipe-string thousands of feet long - in a way that few privately or academically-funded research projects could have done. And we all benefit (to a certain extent) from the oil and gas resources that are now harvested from the deep oceans.
     
  3. Sydde macrumors 68020

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  4. juanm, Apr 7, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2015

    juanm macrumors 65816

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    #4
    It was truly a great period for daring engineering. I recently bought Michael White's documentary "Azorian - the raising of the K-129", very thorough.

    I think you meant do
     
  5. Praxis91 macrumors regular

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    #5
    Agreed (especially regarding the political calculus)!
     
  6. VulchR macrumors 68020

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    #6
    With Russia and China modernising their armed forces these boondoggles are bordering on criminal. In almost every project that was meant to provide for a more secure future (jets, ships, anti-missile defence), billions have been spent on the wrong technology and without success. There is an attempt to retire the A-10, even though there is nothing to replace it; our aircraft carriers are looking increasingly vulnerable; etc.

    My impression is that the Pentagon favours boys' toys rather than machines that get the job done.
     
  7. Huntn Suspended

    Huntn

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    #7
    Big ideas cost big money and if cutting edge, have a high failure rate. Obviously someone thought these ideas could work, although I see the US Government/taxpayer as the ones primarily taking the risk, have paid the price while contractors reach for the brass ring with not nearly as much of the financial risk, and as mentioned, politicians handing out jobs programs for their States. With all the quibbling over revenue, I see the need for some realistic oversight to avoid the whopping price tags for failure.

    I can't but help think that it's the starry eyes of those inclined to the international game of nuclear chicken who think we can win with technology. Now that the Cold War has somewhat ended, we can feel comfort that on a bad day we'll only lose a city or two and poison the Earth within survivable parameters. :rolleyes::p
     
  8. Happybunny macrumors 68000

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    #8
    IMO it’s not just that the Russian’s and Chinese are modernising their armed forces. They also have a clear strategic plan for there use. Both of these countries have armed forces which are designed to operate close to home

    The US is trying to be a jack of all trades, playing at being the world’s police man is both expensive and a thank less task.

    But for me the over riding problem is there has not been a clear foreign policy for the US since the 1970’s. The US has been making short term decisions to solve long term problems.
    This policy (or NON policy) has meant that the US has allied themselves with some very repressive regimes. Then you have to station troops in country to prop up repressive government. Before you know it the US is drawn into yet another civil war.
     
  9. vrDrew macrumors 65816

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    #9
    And that is the problem.

    Because the EU; most of the former Soviet states (Ukraine, Lithuania, etc.); the former Soviet satellite states (Poland, Rumania, etc.) and most of Asia - not just Korea and Japan, but now Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia all expect the United States to protect them.

    Most of this protection is without the existence of formal mutual defense treaties. And - in Asia especially - is expected to be provided without the stationing of US troops on their soil.

    One of the recent developments that I'm particularly concerned about is the Air-Independent Propulsion Submarine fleet that China is building. Costing a fraction of the billions it costs the US to build a nuclear attack sub, these craft can operate almost silently in littoral waters, posing a grave threat to US and allied forces in the region.

    That sort of "asymmetrical" weapon system is not easily countered by the US. Its no good us building similar craft - we need to operate much further from our bases, and would be operating a distinct disadvantage.

    So unfortunately the only option is for the US to continue to develop very high cost, inherently risky "cutting edge" sensor, propulsion, and weapons systems to counter them.

    The US doesn't have to worry about a Chinese AIP submarine sinking ships in the Gulf of Mexico or in Prudhoe Bay. But it does have to be able to deal with these vessels supporting Chinese expansion in the Spratley Islands and Cam Ranh Bay.

    That is inevitably going to be a very expensive proposition. And who else is going to do the job?
     
  10. Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

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    #10
    To paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, we should not send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian/Middle Eastern/European boys ought to be doing for themselves. Whether you're 5 or 95, you gotta wipe your own (_!_).
     
  11. Happybunny macrumors 68000

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    #11
    He might have said that.:cool:
    But he kept on sending more & more of them, to their deaths.:(

    I remember the chant of the 1960's.

    'Hey LBJ how many did you kill today?'
     
  12. mrkramer macrumors 603

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    #12
    The people who are actually being threatened can do the job instead of the US being the world police.
     
  13. Happybunny macrumors 68000

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    #13
    The US is bound by it's treaties that it signed over the last decades.

    I would like to point out that if the US, was to unilaterally walk away from it’s international commitments, the world would become a very dark place quickly.

    The US would not be trusted as a partner, all international treaties would be suspect.

    The breaking of an international treaty, well it’s like a gambler not paying his debts. You become a pariah.

    Last point.
    If it was so easy to just walk a way when the going got tough, don't you think somebody in the US government would have thought of it, or do you think that you are the FIRST person to think it up?
     
  14. hulugu thread starter macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #14
    The Russians seem to be stuck in a similar trap over the T-50. Originally, the Russians were going to buy 52 of the advanced "stealth planes" but now they're only going to buy 12, leaving their Indian partners stuck with their own version called the FGFA.

    If this story sounds familiar, then you have been paying attention.

    That's a good point, but the MDA isn't DARPA where they get to play with ideas. Instead, MDA is in charge of theater and strategic missile defense programs and if they're mismanaging acquisitions this could leave troops, ships and even the U.S. vulnerable.

    The L.A. Times article notes that there's a lack of transparency and honesty with the Pentagon, in part because of Congressional meddling. And, that should be our focus.
     
  15. mrkramer macrumors 603

    mrkramer

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    #15
    How many of our interventions in the past few years have been due to treaties we have signed vs someone deciding to play world police?

    Even with NATO we could allow the other countries to do their share of the work instead of anytime NATO goes in somewhere it is the US plus a handful of other countries troops.
     
  16. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #16
    I'm sympathetic to the argument that cutting-edge R&D is pricey, and unpredictable. I also know that if a contractor seeking a low-bid contract is in any way honest about the actual cost of a project in their bid proposal, they won't be the low bidder.

    But I'm also aware that the GOP is happy to pounce on any amount of fraud and/or waste in a low-income aid program, and hammer the opposition for supporting it. Young bucks with their T-bone steaks, and all.
     
  17. Peterkro macrumors 68020

    Peterkro

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    #17
    As another old fogey the actual chant was "Hey,Hey,LBJ how many kids did you kill today".
     
  18. Mousse macrumors 68000

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    #18
    Seem like the US is getting the short end of the stick in all of these treaties. Yet our leaders keep signing more agreement pacts.:mad::mad: Why wouldn't they? They're getting their kickbacks from our "allies" and the weapons merchants.

    Now why would our leaders want to walk away? They ain't the ones getting it in the bunghole; it's us, the American taxpayers, getting the shaft. And the poor kids whose only choice is joining the military as to not be a burden on their families.:mad:
     
  19. vrDrew macrumors 65816

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    #19
    In principle I agree with that sentiment.

    However, in the real world, I think that the demonization of Earmarks in the Congressional budgeting process has been a decidedly double-edged sword. (Forgive a terribly mixed metaphor)

    For better or worse, the sort of horse-trading compromise that characterized much of pre-Obama budget negotiations may have been occasionally wasteful. But it also meant that really big, really important stuff could actually get done.

    If the argument comes down to which candidate brings a couple thousand economically and militarily iffy jobs in Podunk, USA - versus which candidate can pander to the basest instincts of whatever geriatric bigots get driven to the Republican primary - I think I'd prefer the former.

    Always choose the lesser of two weevils.
     
  20. FieldingMellish Suspended

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    #20
    The Times should reset it’s sights on Europe. The Pentagon is easily outdone by scientific navel-gazing scientists from around the world who’ve been involved for decades at the large hadron collider at Cern.

    “With a budget of 7.5 billion euros (approx. $9bn or £6.19bn as of June 2010), the LHC is one of the most expensive scientific instruments[97] ever built.[98] The total cost of the project is expected to be of the order of 4.6bn Swiss francs (SFr) (approx. $4.4bn, €3.1bn, or £2.8bn as of Jan 2010) for the accelerator and 1.16bn (SFr) (approx. $1.1bn, €0.8bn, or £0.7bn as of Jan 2010) for the CERN contribution to the experiments.”

    “The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world's largest and most powerful particle collider, and the largest single machine in the world,[1] built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) from 1998 to 2008.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Large_Hadron_Collider
     
  21. Huntn Suspended

    Huntn

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    #21
    My argument is someone unable to pay their mortgage should be the last one to bankroll the neighborhood police force and staff it with their kids.

    I see a parallel between Johnson and Obama.

    Yea he was a bit slow on pulling the plug. :-/
     
  22. hulugu thread starter macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #22
    The Pentagon is hardly outdone by the scientists are CERN. In fact, aside from being a weird non sequitur, the Pentagon is so flawed that it once lost track of more than $1 billion in cash, loaded onto pallets for Iraqi warlords.
    However, let's just compare the Pentagon's other problematic acquisition for scale. Just the cost overrun for the F-35 is more than $15 billion.
    The Pentagon will spend an additional $60 billion by delaying the purchase of 179 planes out of a total fleet of nearly 2,400.

    BTW, the total cost of the program is estimated to be $1.45 trillion.
     
  23. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #23
    So let me get this straight. You're claiming that the Pentagon is easily outdone by CERN?

    The Department of Defense base budget for FY 2015 is $495.6 billion.

    Can you please try to spin this in some way that doesn't make your statement look like an absolutely outlandish and foolish claim?

    I could use the entertainment.
     
  24. FieldingMellish Suspended

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    #24
    What has the world gotten from the decades long program at Cern, and why isn't Cern's world's largest machine on the Time's list of investigations?

    Oops. I forgot. They don't suit the Time's selection process for obvious reason.
     
  25. td1439 macrumors 6502

    td1439

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    #25
    A few things
     

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