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February 23rd 2016 print

David Archibald

Good Sense from an Unpalatable Man

Alone among US presidential hopefuls, Donald Trump has pledged to scuttle the gold-plated boondoggle that is the F-35, the irregularly airborne essence of everything that is wrong with defence procurement in both the US and Australia. The other candidates? They've all been bought and paid for

f35Anyone still puzzled by the rise of Donald Trump should consider this fact: Congress voted that the 2016 Defense Budget include 10 F-35s beyond the number requested by the Pentagon. These unsought additions come at a cost of US$1.33 billion when the United States is saddled with much debt and the budget can’t stretch to all the things the US military actually does need. The House of Representatives and the Senate have been controlled by the Republican Party since the mid-term elections of November, 2014. So the extra 10 F-35s are a gift from the Republican establishment to Lockheed Martin. Those aircraft will join the 180 already completed F-35s, none of which has met performance specifications and all unable to fly in combat.

Lockheed Martin maintains a stable of 95 lobbyists in Washington. Lockheed Martin’s board includes a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Ralston, and a former Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, Bruce Carlson. Nearly one in ten members of the House of Representatives belongs to the F-35 caucus.

Defense lobbyists in Washington as a whole have been spending about US$130 million per annum. Contributions from the defense lobby to members of Congress total another US$28 million, rising from an average of US$10,000 per annum in 1990 to over US$40,000 per annum now, at least to the Republican ones.  There are much higher individual totals. Congressman Mac Thornberry (Republican – Texas) got US$256,050 in the 2015 year. Senator John McCain (Republican – Arizona) received US$186,250. McCain talks the talk on defense reform but does nothing. Congress has been bought and the investment is paying off handsomely.

If the Republican establishment has prostituted itself for 30 pieces of silver, perhaps there’s hope amongst the Democrats. Nope – even as the hair shirt-wearing Bernie Sanders rails against the evils of capitalism and Wall Street, he is an F-35 supporter because of jobs in Vermont. It almost goes without saying that Mrs Clinton’s ties to Lockheed Martin are strong and deep. The Clinton Foundation has taken millions from the company, which has paid her husband US$200,000 in speaking fees. Mrs Clinton’s campaign chairman owns the firm that lobbied for the F-35’s approval. The list goes on.

So it is back to the Republican presidential candidates to see if there is any hope that public interest might prevail over private interest. Let’s start with Marco Rubio, who wants to accelerate F-35A procurement, meaning he is either clueless or corrupt. As for Ted Cruz, Lockheed Martin employs 13,700 people in Texas with a yearly payroll of US$1.4 billion, so  Cruz prefers not to mention the F-35 while doing nothing to end the boondoggle. That leaves Mr Trump, who said he will heed the dire reviews of test pilots and dump the F-35.

It seems that Mr Trump has read the assessment of the F-35 pilot who flew a mock combat exercise with an F-16 in early 2015. It is worth quoting Mr Trump directly,

I do hear that it’s not very good. I’m hearing that our existing planes are better. And one of the pilots came out of the plane, one of the test pilots, and said this isn’t as good as what we already have,” Trump said. “And to spend billions and billions of dollars on something that maybe isn’t as good …

They’re saying it doesn’t perform as well as our existing equipment, which is much less expensive. So when I hear that, immediately I say we have to do something, because you know, they’re spending billions. This is a plane, there’s never been anything like it in terms of cost. And how about, you know, we’re retooling with planes that aren’t as good as the ones we have, and the test pilots are amazing people. They know better than anybody, OK, and I think you would accept that.

A decade ago it might have been difficult for an ostentatious billionaire to become president of the United States. Now that is possibly his biggest selling point. He can’t be bought. There is the chance that he will be making decisions, as president, on the merits of the matter. It could be well worth putting up with his manifest shortcomings just for the prospect of that. Otherwise the pillaging of the public purse will continue apace.

David Archibald is the author of Australia’s Defence (Connor Court).





Comments [15]

  1. acarroll says:

    The USA is heading down the gutter and has been for at least 2 decades.

    If Cruz, Rubio or Hillary get elected it will continue.

    Trump is the only candidate that may arrest or reverse this trend. Americans have nothing to lose by voting for Trump.

  2. Bill Martin says:

    It is very, very sad that one has no choice but to reluctantly agree with David Archibald’s assessment of the US presidential candidates. God help America and all those associated with her when someone like Trump is the best of the bunch.

    • Homer Sapien says:

      Do you say Trump is better (more honest) than Carson? Sometimes I do wonder….

      • Bill Martin says:

        I have enormous respect for Ben Carson and I would be deliriously happy to see him in the White House. Alas, he seems unable to gather sufficient support to have any chance of getting there. My “best of the bunch” comment was in reference to those with a fair chance of winning the nomination.

  3. Rob Brighton says:

    Is it sad Bill? After all he does not seem to have much truck with PC, he has no baggage for funding his election, maybe he will be an agent of change for the better?

    The current incumbent is a class act in many respects that Trump is not yet he has watched America lose position on just about every metric.

    Less said about his predecessor the better, perhaps it is time for someone out of the box.

    • Bill Martin says:

      I don’t doubt Trump’s sincere American patriotism, nor his business acumen. Unfortunately, while patriotism, business skills and common sense are important requisites for any endeavour, they, by themselves, are woefully inadequate to be the supremo of the world’s most powerful nation, irrespective of the fact that most of the previous incumbents also fell disastrously short on most accounts. Giving Trump the control of the USA would be not unlike giving the keys for a Ferrari or Lamborghini to a heavy footed teenage revhead. Of his attributes, maturity, style and respect for others do not figure. It’d help somewhat if he could put together a decent sentence instead prattling on like a cranky adolescent. Yes, it is sad that he is the most likely nominee.

      • Rob Brighton says:

        We had another leader in Australia who’s rhetorical skills were not all that, he, as it turns out was much favoured by many who frequent this magazine. Mr Trumps skills in this regard may or may not be first class but I don’t know that matters terribly much, he is “feeding the chooks” sufficiently to get the job. One has to ask why he wants it.

        Its not like he needs the income from the inevitable book and speaking tours.

        His rejection what is blatantly obvious to everyone not infected by the PC virus has made him the most unusual of characters, that is both a billionaire and a common man.

        I don’t see it as sad, I see it as a direct consequence of the right allowing leftist takeover of our institutions leading us to denial of reality, a reality that only he seems prepared to voice even if it is done in a ham fisted manner.

  4. [email protected] says:

    What I find astonishing is a comment such as “God help America and all those associated with her when someone like Trump is the best of the bunch.”
    Erase Trump from that sentence and substitute Obama and fill out the report card. Discuss. And hey , hurry up before severe depression set in.
    In fact substitute the past President of your choice and the report card will struggle to get a C minus. Don’t even bother with LBJ and Carter without strong drink for support.
    Fact is …duh!..the president himself is but a figurehead for the Presidency whose effectiveness and legacy depends on the many people who surround and advise it. Not least the Military Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of State and ,what has recently legitimately excited so many commentators, the Supreme Court appointments.
    There is considerable evidence that President Reagan was suffering from Alzheimers mid-way through his term, yet his Presidency is regarded highly by most observers which surely reinforces
    The most comforting aspects of Trump’s candidacy are twofold:
    1. he is beholden to no-one….undisputed fact.
    2. he is no fool…because a self-made billionaire and a fool are mutually exclusive
    Please read David Archibald’s article above and if not convinced of the importance of being beholden to no-one, well, to light-heartedly paraphrase Dr Phil “You need (expletive deleted) help!

    • Davidovich says:

      Wrt your point number 2 – does that assessment also apply to Clive Palmer?

      • [email protected] says:

        It most certainly does.
        There is no question that Trump is a billionaire.
        Currently the only person who claims with (ahem) certainty that Clive Palmer is a billionaire is Clive Palmer.
        I suppose someone could join him and double the count.

  5. Davidovich says:

    Trump’s history shows he has been a bit of a windscreen wiper wrt policy. There are many instances where he has supported the Democratic side of politics and is a large donor to the Clinton Foundation. Perhaps Lockheed haven’t offered him anything yet?

    • Damien says:

      To suggest that Trump’s candidacy lacks credibility simply because he has supported or donated money to the Democratic Party seems rather short sighted. Donating money to the Democratic Party could well be further proof of Trump’s business acumen. Business is no place for partisan politics. Searching for ideological purity from a candidate who has made his living outside the beltway denies the reality of his success. Is Trump capable of delivering on his promises whilst adapting to the rigours of public life, well that’s another question.

  6. Ian MacDougall says:

    Trump’s campaign slogan is ‘make America great again’. I take that as his Plan 1, and would be interested in seeing some detail on how he would deliver on that.
    Further, when London to a brick that turns out to be all hot air – such as escapes from a punctured balloon, or a clown fallen flat on his face – I would be interested in a further bit of detail of his Plan 2.

  7. wse999 says:

    V interesting, thanks David.