The number-one defense contractor is also one of AvWeek’s biggest advertisers. A Lockheed spokesman told reporter Steve Trimble that the company “has not asked Aviation Week to take disciplinary action against Bill Sweetman.” But it didn’t have to. Lockheed only had to keep buying ads. AvWeek’s cowardly editors handled the disciplinary action all on their own. That’s one way influence works in D.C.
There’s more at stake than one man’s career. The F-35 program has proved, time and again, that it cannot be trusted with the taxpayer’s dollars. Audits and good reporting are the only way to keep the F-35 developers honest. Without Sweetman, that kind of oversight gets a lot harder.
As a consequence, the United States could wind up like China. Beijing is scrambling to cover up serious, and sometimes fatal, design flaws in its new J-10B fighters, which were partially reverse-engineered from Israel’s Lavi fighter. “The pitfalls of reverse engineering without paying royalty and truly understanding the technology are high accident rates, a fact that China has hushed up with its lack of media freedom,” Manu Sood reports.
The big difference is that the F-35 has not gotten anyone killed. Yet.
The arms manufacturers are lashing out at Sec. Def. Gates and anyone else who criticizes them. I expect that operators like Gates and Obama are working very closely on this. John Cole, a vet, is pessimistic:
It [the military budget] will just keep growing and growing and growing, and we’ll find more threats to justify the expense, and should the budget continue to get worse, I’m sure the fiscal discipline commission can come up with some cuts to social security and medicare to keep the war machine churning. And then very serious people on both sides of the aisle will tell us that we need to suffer, and suffer we inevitably will. But not as much as the people we bomb, so there is that.
But there are conservatives on our side on this. Not the D.C. wackos and shills, like Heritage, of course. But take James Joyner on Gates' question whether we really need eleven carrier strike groups, when no one else has even two:
Gates is asking the right questions here.
A few months back, I took part in the Navy’s distinguished visitor program, spending 24 hours aboard the USS Eisenhower. Both the vessel and its crew were extremely impressive. The amount of firepower and flexibility represented by a carrier group is enormous and likely well worth the cost, given our budget. But I don’t know anyone who really thinks we need eleven of them. My inclination would be to figure out how many we’ll plausibly need and add two. But my strong guess is that would still leave us well short of eleven. And, given the margin of advantage between us and the next strongest maritime power, the need for the Ford class [supercarriers] is less than obvious.
Or take this remarkably cutting blog post by Mark Safranski at Zenpundit. He's reacting to a statement by a defense industry flack who said, in reaction to Gates' announcement that the Pentagon would have to get by with less, "The only people celebrating at the Pentagon last week were the Mexicans working on renovating the building." To which Safranski said:
It takes a rare class of wit to combine an allusion to an ethnic minority group while shilling for a fabulously overpaid and notoriously dysfunctional industry that is anxious that we are spending too much money on the war wounded. Full story at Danger Room.
Remember people, every dollar wasted on caring for a critically injured combat veteran, or on a pay raise that keeps a private’s family off of food stamps is a dollar that could have gone to cost overruns or a desperately needed executive bonus.
Joyner and Safranski are mainstream conservative policy wonks and seem as fed up with the military industrial complex as any liberal. I think I know how the Congressional GOP is going to try to handle the situation, but their position may not be nearly as strong as Cole fears it is.