Armed With Lobbyists

Adam Ciralsky reports at length on Lockheed Martin’s troubled F-35 Lightning II program. How the project has survived:

The political process that keeps the Joint Strike Fighter airborne has never stalled. The program was designed to spread money so far and F-35 Lightning II instructor pilots conduct aerial refuelingso wide—at last count, among some 1,400 separate subcontractors, strategically dispersed among key congressional districts—that no matter how many cost overruns, blown deadlines, or serious design flaws, it would be immune to termination. It was, as bureaucrats say, “politically engineered.” …

[Lockheed Martin] employs a stable of in-house and outside lobbyists and spends some $15 million on lobbying each year. When it comes to the F-35, which accounts for one of its largest revenue streams, Lockheed takes every opportunity to remind politicians that the airplane is manufactured in 46 states and is responsible for more than 125,000 jobs and $16.8 billion in “economic impact” to the U.S. economy. Signing up eight allied countries as partners provides additional insurance. “It’s quite frankly a brilliant strategy,” said General Bogdan, acknowledging that it is effective even if it is not admirable. Political engineering has foiled any meaningful opposition on Capitol Hill, in the White House, or in the defense establishment.

(Photo: A U.S. Air Force pilot navigates an F-35A Lightning II aircraft into position to refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker over the coast of Florida on May 16, 2013. By MSgt John Nimmo Sr via Wikimedia Commons)