Real Cost vs. Real Benefits

TIME’s Battleland and Wired’s Danger Room blogs are two of the best DOD/National Security sources out there – they both supply a perspective on defense-related events that doesn’t always tow the “party line.” I frequently disagree with the opinions, but they almost always makes me think and reconsider my previously held opinions. Thinking like a Fox is all about finding and cultivating sources of information like that.

I have the standard Navy prejudice against the Air Force – I think they have way too much tail for too little teeth.  With that said, I had to come in on the side of the Air Force when I read this article about the real cost of the F-22 Raptor.  The breakdown of the different ways of measuring unit costs is interesting and worth a read, but the last paragraph of the article has, I think, an unfair test of the program’s utility:

How much value does the U.S. government get from its investment in F-22s?….. A cheap used car that never leaves the driveway is, in a real sense, more expensive than a car you pay sticker price for and drive every day.

So consider this: since the F-22 entered service in 2005, every other operational warplane in the U.S. arsenal has seen action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or other conflict zones. But the tiny fleet of pricey F-22s, optimized for ultra-rare dogfighting missions, missing key upgrades and frequently grounded, hasn’t flown a single combat sortie.

I don’t buy the logic they use to calculate the benefits of the program. The F-22 was never intended to fight in the kinds of wars that we’ve fought for the last 6 years.  That doesn’t mean that it won’t EVER be needed. Even in the unlikely event that the F-22 lives and dies without ever firing a shot in anger, it still serves a vital deterrent function – many nations throughout the world are working on fifth-generation fighters, and the US needs to have a credible and dominant counter to those threats. The Ohio class ballistic missile submarines were designed so that they’d be so fearsome and undetectable that they would never have to fire a shot – but that doesn’t mean that they’ve been a waste of money.


About thinklikeafox

I'm a Naval Officer living in Southern California. I hope to be attending law school in the next year or two, and I started writing this blog out of a desire to improve my writing and critical thinking skills after a couple years outside of academia.
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