$46 Billion Worth of Cancelled Programs

So here’s an interesting bit of defense technology related info presented by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments at a press conference to discuss defense spending yesterday.

It’s a breakdown of just how much all those weapons programs that were cancelled in the last decade cost us:

Future Combat Systems (FCS) $18.1B

Comanche helicopter $7.9B

nPOESS satellite $5.8B

VH-71 Presidential Helicopter $3.7B

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) $3.3B

Transformational SATCOM (TSAT) $3.2B

Crusader $2.2B

Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) $0.6 B

Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter $0.5 B

Aerial Common Sensor $0.4 B

CG(X) next Generation Cruiser $0.2B

CSAR-X $0.2B

All told, that’s about $46 billion, a significant chunk of change. CSBA’s Todd Harrison (and many others throughout the years) urged the Pentagon to start programs off right with realistic requirements and tight oversight to prevent such cancellations from ever happening. Still, you’ve got to realize that a lot (but certainly not all) of the lessons learned in the development of these systems will be put to use in their replacements. Who knows how much tech from the Commanche was featured on the stealth helos that took out bin Laden?

Check out Steve Trimble’s list of successful DoD programs of the last decade and notice, as he points out, that they’re all derivatives of existing systems.

Click through for a copy of the CSBA report. The chart with the cancelled programs is on page 36.

FY 2012 Defense Budget

  • Dfens

    Let’s never stop paying contractors the same percentage of profit on development we pay them on production, because that’s working out so damn well for us. Out of the $46 billion in cancelled programs, the prime defense contractors cleared $4.6 billion in profit. That’s not even counting all the profit their subcontractors made. They risked absolutely nothing to make that profit. At least if they had to produce something, they’d have some risk they’d have to take to make their profit. Stupid people and their money should be parted, and thank God we have defense contractors to take that money away from the stupid US taxpayer.

    • blight

      It makes you shudder to imagine what would have happened if all those programs were produced out to full build, and the consequent burden on the American economy it would be. It would make the Soviet military-industrial-complex based collapse look small by comparison.

    • Vstress

      This however is a direct stimulus to the economy.

      Most technology cited here in these cancelled programs has direct impact on civilian (and also future) tech used elsewhere.

      Personally I agree with the article, but in a slightly skewed way.

      I think we should make sure we make the clear distinction between production items and technology demonstrators. A good example is the Commanche.

      If this was run as a technology demonstration programme it would have been very successful.

      Ensuring that supplier contracts are made, parts are ensured to handle the rigours of mass manufacture and the very large extra amount of engineering work required to pass safety regulations (flight envelopes, structural tests, etc.) when things are primed to be put into production all adds HUGE costs.

      The problem however then lies with the fact that technology demonstrators never attract the costs and the interests that a production run will. However, with the tighter budgets, the companies should be more willing to bite on such smaller contracts.

    • poiu

      The contractors quit their jobs to come to work on a defense system with the hopes of helping their country while putting food on the table. Then after the contractor works tons of uncompensated overtime to adjust to the random requirements changes, the customer arbitrarily cancels the program forcing the contractor into a layoff possition, forced to sell home at a loss, forced into unemployment, etc. And to add insult to injury, the customer blames the contractor for costs directly associated with the customers bad decision making.
      Yes the contractor takes on lots of risk!

  • Jim

    NPOESS’s budget cut is not a clean $5.8B in savings… some of that money is getting redirected to NASA and NOAA for JPSS, which is basically the same satellite minus the sensors which couldn’t be produced on time / on budget.

    (F.D. – I worked w/ NPOESS, and its problem was essentially that the sensor developers and integrators accepted R&D levels of risk on an operationally-tight schedule.)

  • Matt

    So the government has been deciding to take these life saving systems away from the soldiers for awhile, and now they want to step it up. That’s just great. Why can’t they save money by cutting from kept welfare and tax cuts? What are we going to do, rely on the EU for help everything something goes wrong? Worked so well w/Libya…

  • Armored

    It was a bad choice what they did to the Commanche helicopter; it had so much promise…..unless of course it was just ‘officially’ canceled but was still being produced and developed behind the scenes to the point where they could make a different model which was the one that was supposedly seen in the ‘bin laden raid’ but hey, it’s anyone’s guess.

  • mpower6428

    only donald rumsfeld’s “transformational, future combat systems” could put robert macnamara’s “statistical wiz-bang” to shame. at least bobby can/could say he got the army and the navy using the same kind of 20mm ammo.

    jeez…. rummy didnt even try, or maybe he tried not too…..

    but hey, you’re right, i shouldnt judge. at least the B-1 got some “combat” time, only enough to count on one hand but STILL…. its combat time right…?

    • blight

      Rummy sacked the Crusader and may have been responsible for minor BRACing. Rummy followed Shinsekis “Stryker Brigade” idea and took it further with more electronics. He heralded the “who needs ground troops” shock-and-awe guys who were deluded into thinking Iraq would be a easy kill. He also got stuck with the untidy decisions like passing instructions to protect oil infrastructure over everything, but he seems to be unconnected to Bremer’s order to de-Baathify.

  • Hap

    You guys suck, I got all excited when I saw the Comanche pic and thought they were going to bring it back.

  • Lance

    Soon there will be more on there the New USAF bomber and the GCV and the silly Carbine competition will probably be there soon too.

  • Stan

    It’s only taxpayer dollars. Easy come, easy go.

  • Belesari

    NO!, NO!, NO! you dont understand how can you ask us to develope systems using the tried and true method of evolutionary advancment to develope weapons systems.

    We have to make them go POOF out of the air like magic while demanding completely irrelevent and many times unnessesary requirements “cough” 55kts sustained for a 400ft long LCS “cough”.

    It never ends.

  • Matt

    If the bin laden Helo was a comanche decendent, they obviously didn’t learn enough lessons considering 1 crashed on its first mission where they rebuilt a whole city block to practice for…stealth doesn’t work very well when you smack it into a wall

  • jimmy

    what about retired and military ss cuts was included

  • STemplar

    Article sure makes a case for the argument if we really want to truly save money we should jettison problem programs far sooner.

  • Matt

    In my opinion there really only seems to be 3 combat vehicals whose replacements seem to leave big gaps in capablities (I have minimal knowledge on satilites/comms so I’m not even gonna mention them). Ok 4 if you count the technological magic that was FCS… But I doubt anyone still believes that could’ve been saved.

    1) Comanche: America still doesn’t have a stealth helo, except to some modified Blackhawks.
    2) Crusader: M109, to the best of my knowledge, still has a larger crew, no autoloader, and is heavier/slower moving.
    3) EFV: Unless the Marines next amphib can hydroplane they’ll loss what was argueable the biggest advantage the EFV had over the AAV…

  • rodinuk

    VH-71 was also a derivative of an otherwise successful program, just not a U.S. one. Then again it’s cancellation was for political reasons not defense.

    • Guest A

      That airframe really is a beast, and they still don’t have a replacement for the H-3s.

    • blight

      The R&D costs continued to spiral while the size of the buy was unlikely to get any larger.

      They would be better served by moving helicopter responsibilities to the Secret Service, and thus out of the political theater known as “defense procurement”. He may be CinC, but why should the Marines be flying him again? Would the defense contractors play nice with SS, knowing the SS isn’t ready to shoot the breeze and accept cost overruns…?

      • Guest A

        The Secret Service does more than just protect the POTUS, for one. Even if they did take that responibility, they would still need all of the equipment that goes into the helos flown and maintained by the Marines which means they would still cost the same. They fly him for the very reason he is the CinC, just like the Air Force does.

  • Jay

    Social Security improperly sent $6.5 billion in overpayments in 2009, so these programs over 10 years add up to 7 years of SS mistakes.
    Or less than 1 year worth of medicare fruad, estimated at $60-80 billion annually.

    The defense contractors are in the wrong business, if they want to get big money they should get into medicare!

  • Surely the biggest failure on that list is the presidential helicopter. To spend $3.7billion and have absolutely nothing to show for it is a disgrace.

    At least with things like Comanche or the EFV, you’d expect the developed technologies to leach into other existing or subsequent programmes; but the Presidential helicopters are a near total waste of money.

    And seriously, how hard is it to buy a helicopter for the boss – look through brochures, select cup holders and other options, order a bunch, paint the right shade of green, job done!

    • Guest A

      You would think it would be that easy. The problem was after LM won the contract at the price set, all the other agencies involved like the Secret Service and NAVAIR started adding requirements that they wanted and bogged the program down and costs went up. Throw in the fact that since it was a foreign purchase there were all kinds of ITAR related issues that added to the delays that snowballed with all the other issues and it went downhill from there.

    • Some Guy

      Well it does have to have defenses. A well placed stinger shot and boom, by bye birdy. SO i bet it has to have a lot of countermeasures

  • Dfens

    I wonder when they’ll make it official that C-130 AMP is cancelled? That should add another $4 billion to the total, making it an even $50 billion. $50 billion, that’s starting to be real money.

  • STemplar

    Too much of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing. Also, as long as Congress is essentially bribed by the defense industry there will never be change. We could absorb these cuts easily if we would just stop this fear mongering justification syndrome we use for making excuses for the atrocious performance of these programs. If we would just adopt the use of more OTS options applied in creative ways there would be huge savings. We cling to having to have all these purpose built solutions and as a result whatever we field ends up costing several times more per than necessary.

    • SJE

      Its not just Congress, but the Senior Officers who make decisions that just happen to favor contractors, and then go to work for the same contractors. We should be paying our Generals better than junior lawyers, so that they don’t have to whore themselves to private industry.

      • blight

        I think you underestimate greed. What kinds of people rise to the top of any organization? In this regard, Wall Street and the Pentagon aren’t so dissimilar after all…

  • aSDF

    these are not just cancelled programs, most of them have had a hell of an overrun

  • sferrin

    So what the author is saying is that cancelled programs weren’t free? WTF? I feel like my IQ has dropped 40 points just by reading this article and some of the comments here.

  • PeteCarter

    This is a higly biased and one-sided article, for the following reasons:
    1) new systems originate from a) warfighter needs and b) enabling technology. If the technology is not mature (what’s called TRL of 1-3), it is often “matured” through the Technology Development Phase. By definition this is R&D , and often the maturation process simply doesn’t develop as it was envisioned (what do you think RESEARCH means?). Very often the R&D shows that the technology simply won’t work for the proposed new system.
    2) Often the technology’s mature, the need is genuine, but the realized cost of production, maintenance, and sustainment makes it “out of reach”. And it doesn;t become apparent until it’s in early production. The F-35 is trending in that direction.
    (Post is continued below.).

  • PeteCarter

    3) The systems shown above did not result in wasted dollars – technology was developed that can usually be applied to a related system. I as involved in Future Combat Systems for several years, allowing the Army to go forward with technology insertion in a number of areas, especially in the C4ISR and comms. areas.
    4) very often system development is well underway and the threat either changes drastically or diminishes. Think about how many Cold War-oriented systems were in development when the Soiet Union dissolved in 1991.
    5) and yes, sometimes it’s purely political, as when a new Administaration comes in. The B-1 bomber is a prime example.
    Many of us in Acquisition do our best to make the most effective use of every taxpayer dollar. Articles like these just perpetuate the typical “wasteful Pentagon” myth

    • blight

      Categorizing the list:

      Obsolete by Cold War ending:
      Comanche helicopter $7.9B
      Crusader $2.2B

      Didn’t meet targets?
      Future Combat Systems (FCS) $18.1B
      Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) $3.3B
      Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) $0.6 B

      Change of heart?
      VH-71 Presidential Helicopter $3.7B
      Aerial Common Sensor $0.4 B
      nPOESS satellite $5.8B
      Transformational SATCOM (TSAT) $3.2B
      CG(X) next Generation Cruiser $0.2B
      CSAR-X $0.2B
      Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter $0.5 B

      FCS dominates the list, but was meant to fund a family of vehicles and all sorts of ear. Comanche is just one platform…but in the long run would probably have run into the stealth materials maintenance nightmare that mars low-observable coatings.

  • G. Donovan

    I have doubts that the political establishment is even aware of their place in the global establishment. They cancelled the Comanche (for a lack of mission), even as the Russians and Chinese were rolling threat aircraft and vehicles off the assembly line. We’ve outsourced so much manufacturing, we can’t even build replacements for what we have, without importing the parts and the fuel they need. We have so many dependencies and vulnerabilities that war has become unnecessary to contain our power and influence.

    Eventually, we’ll have a military that can only protect the Northeastern US and spy on American citizens (the REAL enemy, according to Homeland Security).