Britain’s Farnborough Air Show wrapped up last week after seven ear-splitting days. To impress the excited kids and jaded dealers in attendance, the U.S. sent an F-8, an F-15, and a pair of F-16s. But the much anticipated F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter was a no-show. After a runway fire grounded the fleet earlier this month, the Department of Defense suspended negotiations to purchase the next batch of the planes.
The troubled fighter is only the latest in a long and growing number of cases where the DOD has bought poorly designed and massively overpriced equipment for the nation’s armed forces. Across the military, the average major Pentagon acquisition comes in at 40 percent over budget, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. In spite of the Pentagon’s well-documented history of profligacy, the Congress continues to enlarge its responsibilities. The DOD’s mandate now includes wide-ranging scientific and medical research and international infrastructure projects, diffusing the focus on its core mission—like buying planes that don’t set themselves afire on the runway. That’s a disservice to America’s military and a burden to the country’s taxpayers.