Tuesday, July 20, 2010

F-35s... Why?

I know this topic is being talked about to death... but I saw the bandwagon and said, "me too!"

So, a few weeks ago Harper stated his commitment to reducing the deficit by half by 2013.  His first major action after that: $16B for 65 state of the art F-35s.  $9B for the planes and an estimated (though not confirmed) $7B for maintenance.  To put that into perspective that's four times the amount that was set aside for the economic action recovery plan.

The CPC has said that the cost is necessary to replace the aging fleet of CF18s that are currently in use.  All of the remaining 79 of which are finishing a $2.6B upgrade to a wide variety of their systems.

So if we're upgrading the existing planes why do we also need new ones?

The CPC's reasons were that we had already invested $168M into the development of the plane (as have many of our allies) and that we need to keep pace with our allies in terms of military capability.  Also, the airframes on the CF-18s are getting old and do need to be replaced, but that can also be done at a fraction of the cost.

The first reason is filled with so much stupid that its not worth making a serious argument against it.  It's like buying a ticket to a hockey game then buying the entire team to justify the ticket's expense.  At best $168M gives us the option to choose to purchase then jets.

Which allies are we trying to keep up with?  It seems that the cost of the F-35 is a major problem for all of the countries that have invested in the program except us.  The US and many of the other countries involved in the project have cut the size of their orders, and the Dutch have withdrawn from the program altogether.

The original cost of the F-35 was slated at $55M each, which had ballooned to an estimated $115M as of May of this year.  Now in July we've agreed to pay $138M per plane... I think Harper needs to work on his bargaining skills.  We're purchasing from the first production run, which typically is rife with minor technical errors; if we had waited until the fourth run, we could have paid half.

During a financial meltdown it seems like a better use of tax money would have been to stabilize and expand the economy.  As mentioned before the F-35 expenditure is four times greater than the stimulus fund.  But maybe we need the jets more than we need to repair and upgrade our infrastructure, help struggling businesses and families, and oh yeah prevent further expansion of the deficit.

As I read through the Toronto Star I was amused that the very next article following one about the F-35s was about the dire condition of our existing infrastructure.  Apparently the cost to bring Ontario's roads need about $160M to maintain them at a minimum safe standard.  But hey, its not like infrastructure has anything to do with the economy, right?

To conclude, I was annoyed with this decision in light of the recent commitment to reduce the deficit by a half in three years.  But I guess if you make it as big as possible this year, halving it will be all the easier.

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