Wednesday, January 28, 2015

You Can't Save Money Already Spent

I wouldn't kill the F-35 program if the plane works--I'd only do that if it doesn't work. Otherwise we've simply done the research and development work for China's new stealth plane while sticking with older generation planes to fight them.

This article on why we should cancel the F-35 mistakenly argues that a follow-on program would avoid the cost of the F-35 and build a better plane, too.

The author's examples for doing this ignore that the follow-on programs used the research and development from the earlier programs but since they were "new" designs, didn't have to count that research in their cost.

So canceling the F-35 just as we are starting production won't actually save money even if an accounting standard allows us to pretend it is true.

At this point, if the objective is to save money, I'd want to ignore development costs already paid for and compare production costs to the costs of a new plane.

And then calculate how much longer we'd have to wait to have a new plane put in production.

And consider that if the plane works and we cancel it, China will build a new plane in part with our research that they stole.

I'm not the biggest fan of the F-35. I have long expressed worries about the plane. But if these are just teething issues rather than bad design, we'll get the plane to work.

Further, what's the alternative? Are we really going to go with evolved platforms that are many decades old even as other countries build more advanced planes?

I've been patient with the LCS. But at this point, I don't think it will work and it is way too expensive. This program should be cancelled. So it isn't that I simply trust the procurement process. I'm willing to give new weapons time, since weapons like the M-1 and Stinger missile were also heavily criticized at one time.

Perhaps the F-35 sucks and so the cost is too high. But I haven't run out of patience on this program. Given the lack of alternatives I would not cancel the program lightly.

But it would be good if we saw confirmation of its quality soon just in case we do find the F-35 too little bang for too much buck.

UPDATE: Oh, and I should note (whenever I realize it) that since this post involves Lockheed Martin, that I have a very small amount of their stock. Not that it stopped me from urging the cancellation of the Littoral Combat Ship that the company is also involved in building.

Honestly, my shares are too few and my audience too small for me to think it is a conflict of interest. But still.