Forty Billion Dollar Failure


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor

Forty Billion Dollars is a heck of a lot of money.  It seems like an even larger number when you realize that just one defense program spent that large sum, and it has arguably been a disaster.  I am talking about the highly political missile defense system program.  You have probably heard about that program.  It is supposed to stop any wild-eyed dictators from successfully sending any ICBM’s into our air space.  It may just be an amazingly expensive pipe dream!

“Within minutes, the interceptor’s three boosters had burned out and fallen away, and the kill vehicle was hurtling through space at 4 miles per second. It was supposed to crash into the mock enemy warhead and obliterate it.

It missed.

At a cost of about $200 million, the mission had failed.

Eleven months later, when the U.S. Missile Defense Agency staged a repeat of the test, it failed, too.

The next attempted intercept, launched from Vandenberg on July 5, 2013, also ended in failure.

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD, was supposed to protect Americans against a chilling new threat from “rogue states” such as North Korea and Iran. But a decade after it was declared operational, and after $40 billion in spending, the missile shield cannot be relied on, even in carefully scripted tests that are much less challenging than an actual attack would be, a Los Angeles Times investigation has found

The Missile Defense Agency has conducted 16 tests of the system’s ability to intercept a mock enemy warhead. It has failed in eight of them, government records show.”  LA Times


I think one of the most amazing facts in this story is that these tests issues are much easier than the problems an actual attack might present.  So would an actual attack produce results even worse than 50%?  Not only has the GMD failed one half of the time, it may be getting worse as the years and money drag on.  According to many experts the GMD system was put into operation even before it had been proven to be successful.

“Despite years of tinkering and vows to fix technical shortcomings, the system’s performance has gotten worse, not better, since testing began in 1999. Of the eight tests held since GMD became operational in 2004, five have been failures. The last successful intercept was on Dec. 5, 2008. Another test is planned at Vandenberg, on the Santa Barbara County coast, later this month.

The GMD system was rushed into the field after President George W. Bush, in 2002, ordered a crash effort to deploy “an initial set of missile defense capabilities.” The hurried deployment has compromised its effectiveness in myriad ways.

“The system is not reliable,” said a recently retired senior military official who served under Presidents Obama and Bush. “We took a system that was still in development — it was a prototype — and it was declared to be ‘operational’ for political reasons.”  LA Times

Not only is this system an expensive boondoggle to hand produce, it costs at least $200 million dollars just to set up one of the elaborate tests that have proven to be ineffective.  What could this country have done with Forty Billion dollars in the last decade alone?  How many roads, bridges, high-speed rail advances could have been made with that kind of capital?

Of course, politicians of many stripes have bought into the system, even with its repeated failures.  These same politicians balk at paying for unemployment compensation, or for food stamps or the many infrastructure and social programs that this country desperately needs, but they have no problem forking over Forty Billion to save us from rogue states that don’t even have the capability to hit us with offensive missiles.

When will we as a country take control of the military industrial complex( MIC) that keeps siphoning large dollars from legitimate defense programs and much-needed domestic spending?  Can we possibly gain control of the MIC without getting money out of our political elections? Can we gain control over the defense industry when they have such control over the politicians approving these huge sums of money for unproven systems?

While many experts have called for an end to or a reduction in this expensive enterprise, many politicians are trying to expand the scope and cost of the GMD program.  “Despite GMD’s problems, influential members of Congress have protected its funding and are pushing to add silos and interceptors in the Eastern U.S. at a potential cost of billions of dollars.

Boeing Co. manages the system for the Pentagon. Raytheon Co. manufactures the kill vehicles. Thousands of jobs in five states, mostly in Alabama and Arizona, depend directly or indirectly on the program.

The Obama administration, after signaling that it would keep the number of interceptors at the current 30, now supports expanding the system. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called for deploying 14 new interceptors at Ft. Greely by late 2017.

Missile Defense Agency officials declined to be interviewed for this article. A spokesman, Richard Lehner, said in a statement that the agency was working “to conduct component testing and refurbishment of the interceptors currently deployed to … improve their reliability.” ”  LA Times

It is obvious that the military industrial complex has control of many in Congress and in the White House.  Therefore, it may be an uphill battle to try to stop the program.  However, if we do not try to at least force the program to prove its worth, how will we ever find the funds to heal our nation’s workforce and infrastructure?

If you had the call, what would you do with the money?  Should the GMD program be halted or reduced? Can we ever gain control over the military industrial complex?  If so, how?

“The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.”




49 thoughts on “Forty Billion Dollar Failure”

  1. In my view, the missile defense system has been a magnificent success.

    It succeeded in providing many people with good-paying jobs, jobs that led to income taxes and government revenue.

    It succeeded in demonstrating that missile defense systems are likely to be problematic when used to prevent missile attacks.

    It succeeded in helping some folks who are good at systems engineering methodologies to improve systems engineering methodologies, particularly through demonstrating shortcomings in systems engineering methodologies.

    It succeeded in demonstrating how managers who do not understand what they are managing may generate expensive blunders.

    It may have succeeded in showing that the best defense against attack is for no one to be willing to attack.

    It succeeded in demonstrating that human stupidity and ignorance are flourishing.

    It succeeded in clarifying the relationship of creation science with evolution science; human creativity has yet to evolve enough for people to have become able to avoid such folly.

  2. Forty Billion Dollar Failure

    Another in a long line of US government boondoggles foisted upon the American public for the sole benefit of the merchants of death.

    PS The $40 billion dollars is only what the Bush (the lesser) and Obama administrations have squandered. If we count the money wasted beginning in 1983 when the Reagan administration first proposed funding Strategic Defense Initiative related research to present it totals more than $164 billion dollars this according to the US Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) site.

    MDA historic spending, 1984-2014, pdf link:

  3. Paul,
    It’s here. The AH-64 helicopter. All weather, can hide behind vegetation, hills and buildings and go anywhere. Heavily armored. Lots of guns and rockets. The Hellfire lives up to its name.

    But, but, but…… It is an ARMY airplane! The guys who fly it don’t wear blue uniforms.

    Did you know that camouflage researchers determined the best color to paint the F-117 Nighthawk was pastel blue, not black? Read an article in an aviation magazine that the top brass wouldn’t hear of it. They didn’t want their sooooper-doooper night flying F-117 to be a sissified powder blue. It had to be a badass BLACK! Um….anyone notice what color the Russians paint their stealthy airplanes?

  4. Speaking of fighter planes. The latest generation of fighters are like my fly killing machine. Way more airplane than is needed. The days of furball dogfights are over. Anything that can carry an AMRAAM AIM-120-D missile can smoke one from 90-97 miles away. You can bet both the Russians and Chinese have something similar to the AMRAAM AIM-120-D.

    With asymmetrical warfare being the current norm, we need something to replace the hideously ugly but immensely practical A-10 Thunderbolt II, referred to affectionately by troops and pilots alike as the “Warthog.” If I am a Ranger or Marine on the ground, and need close support to take out a squad of enemy troops fifty meters from my position, I don’t need or want a Mach 2 fast mover. I want something that can fly slow, loiter over my position, and is nearly impervious to the inevitable ground fire.

    Bet you guys didn’t know the flight performance envelope of the A-10 is pretty close to that of its original namesake, the P-47 Thunderbolt, or the P-51 Mustang. About the same speed and rate of climb, but of course can carry more armament.

    1. What we need are more A-1 Skyraiders for ground support.

      I know there is a real reluctance to purchase major weapons systems from foreign countries.

      But unless you think the third world countries we usually fight are going to develop something better than the Russians, we could buy SU35s and still have a plane at least as good, and probably much better, than anything our pilots would encounter in combat.

      Even if one believes we absolutely have to develop our own fighters, a mix of some SU 35s might make sense.

      We could pick up some SU 35s at, say, 65 million a copy to go with our portfolio of F35’s at 225 million each, and F22s at 425 million each.

      When you look at it in terms of cost and effectiveness, we might have to buy something like SU 35s just to have enough air craft to meet mission requirements.

      Of course, if you project cost curves, the day is not far off when the nation will be able to afford only one air craft and pilots will have to take turns flying it.

    2. Chuck – sadly we are going to lose the A-10 and I am not sure their is a replacement in the pipeline. It has been a great workhorse for us and a boon to our troops.

  5. i said it before and will say it till im green/blue in the face the corporation has billions for so called specialized military weapons and none for education, housing, food, or jobs oh what a wonderful world we live in!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA

Comments are closed.