My family has served three generations in the United States Navy and I will always support the men and women of our Armed Forces. However, I don't think we are spending our money wisely when it comes to the military and our ability to fight future conflicts.
Defense spending account for approximately 23 percent of the Federal Budget and while I have and always will support a strong military, I feel that we are not keeping up with technology and wasting incredible amounts of money. I don't think anyone would disagree that our economy is still recovering and this is not the time to spend as if there was a huge surplus. Over the past several years Congress has authorized nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer dollars for the M1 Abrams tank. A tank the military says they have enough of. The Army's Chief of Staff told Congress the U.S. has more than enough combat tanks to meet the nation's defense needs. Drive an hour north of Reno, Nevada and you will come across a parking lot of more than 2,000 M1 Abrams tanks collecting dust in the desert. The Pentagon estimates a savings of $3 billion to taxpayers if we were to hold off any further refurbishment of existing tanks. Our lawmakers are frequently heard saying the president should listen to the generals when it comes to battlefield decisions, yet 173 House members sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense urging him to continue funding more tanks completely disregarding the recommendations of the generals.
The F-35 Lightning comes with a price tag of $236 million per plane. The costs for the estimated 2,443 plane order has almost doubled according to a report from the General Accounting Office, to an increase of 93 percent from $233 billion to now $400 billion. And the F-35 has been plagued with problems and delaying it's delivery to the military. Likewise, the F-22 Raptor with a price tag of $150 million per plane has had numerous operational issues resulting in multiple groundings of the entire fleet. According to an article in the AirForce Times (March 2013) the F-22 has suffered from leaky fuselage panels resulting in corrosive issues, overheated avionics resulting in computer crashes in the F-22 and core structural deficiencies. Fixes to the aircraft raise the price per plane from $130 million to $330 million per plane.
Enter 21st Century technology. The X-47B is an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle projected to enter into service with the United States Navy later this decade. Watch a test catapult launch of the X-47B here. At a fraction of the cost of a manned air vehicle, the unmanned vehicle can be deployed on a variety of air-capable ships and still provide a low profile, high importance mission for suppressing enemy air defenses. In May 2013 the United States Navy introduced its first squadron of unmanned combat helicopters, the MQ-8 Fire Scout. The helicopter can perform the typical functions of a Navy helicopter such as antisubmarine warfare and search and rescue but the Fire Scout can stay in the air for eight hours compared to the maximum air time of 3 hours for a manned helicopter. See the Fire Scout here.
I believe we need to stop wasting money on equipment for the military that is either outdated or unwanted by the military. Conflicts of the future require technology of the future and a big part of that future is with unmanned vehicles. We are always going to need aircraft and helicopters but the unmanned vehicles come at a fraction of the cost of the manned versions and the capabilities are equal and in some circumstances such as flight time, exceed that of the manned vehicles. Environmentally the unmanned vehicles consume considerably less fuel and safety with respect to the pilot is obvious.
As I mentioned, I am a strong supporter of our military but I want to see our tax dollars spent wiser in technologies that will help defend our great nation against conflicts of the future.