Air Force Wins Golden Fleece Award for Hiding Cost of the B-21 from Taxpayers

In Cost, Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Peace, Uncategorized, War on October 6, 2016 at 2:01 am

Washington, DC – How about a catchy nickname, something like the “Raider.’’ That’s what the Air Force is going to call its new long-range bomber—the B-21 Raider. But don’t ask how much Northrop Grumman will be paid to produce a boatload of these planes. Air Force officials won’t tell you. For clamping a tight lid on this raid on the U.S. Treasury, Taxpayers for Common Sense awards the Air Force the “coveted’’ Golden Fleece Award.
The award is given by TCS to government agencies or officials who have shown exceptional achievement in wasting taxpayer money.
The Air Force plans to buy about 100 B-21 Raiders but has adamantly refused to disclose to the American public how much in taxpayer funds will be shelled out. One independent estimate pegged the cost at $23.5 billion, but that’s in 2016 dollars. Taxpayer alert: Be prepared for inflation!

The Golden Fleece Award, created in 1975, was the brainchild of the late Senator William Proxmire (D-Wisconsin). Proxmire used humor and outrage, embodied in the Golden Fleece, to spotlight waste and abuse of taxpayer funds. To commemorate its 25th anniversary, Proxmire asked TCS to become the steward of the Golden Fleece in 2000.
“’Black’ weapons systems are developed in secret, but the B-21 Raider is not a black program,’’ Ryan Alexander, the president of TCS, says. “Other than feeding its appetite for secrecy, the Air Force has no business keeping the cost of this project from taxpayers.’’
Alexander says that the Air Force has a dismal record of cost overruns on aircraft acquisitions. “You don’t have to look any further than the F-35, the F-22, and the B-2,’’ she says. “This is more about keeping embarrassing cost overruns out of the headlines and away from congressional oversight.” A review of Air Force aircraft acquisitions supports that assessment. In the last 30 years, the Air Force has underestimated the unit costs of the B-2 by 465%, the F-22 by 205%, and the F-35 by 68% (so far).

The Air Force is in the initial stages of purchasing the B-21 Raider. Air Force officials recently announced that Northrop Grumman, a Virginia-based defense contractor, was the winning bidder to develop the new bomber. Testifying in June at his Senate confirmation hearings to become Air Force Chief of Staff, General David L. Goldfein suggested that the Air Force should disclose the cost of the program.
Responding to questions from Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Goldfein said: “. . .If we are not transparent with the American people on the costs of this weapon system, through its elected leadership, then we have a good chance of losing this program.’’

Goldfein’s testimony appears to conflict with the Air Force’s official position. Officials maintain that releasing cost data would provide information about enhanced capabilities of the aircraft. Despite publicly available images and cost estimates, the secrecy continues.


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