Project on Government Oversight: F-35: The Most Expensive Weapons Program in History

The F-35 program serves as the ideal case study to understand the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex. The program encapsulates all the problems with the business of purchasing weapons in the United States. The F-35 has a needlessly complicated design that makes it expensive and difficult to operate and maintain. While this design makes it less effective in combat, it does facilitate subcontracts all over the country for no purpose other than shoring up political support. The sheer size of the program provides many opportunities for officials involved in the program to travel through the revolving door between government and industry.

F-35: The Most Expensive Weapons Program in History

The not-so-new F-35! Complete with parts that have been purchased by the United States Pentagon in duplicate (sometimes triplicate) at an enormous markup, fully equipped with guns that do not shoot straight, and an embarrassingly low fully-mission-capable rating, this imprecise, overpriced aircraft could be your next wasteful purchase! 

This is the most expensive weapons system in history—but POGO, Project on Government Oversight, recently found out that the Pentagon could not account for at least 3.4 million F-35-related items, valued at approximately $2.1 billion.

This year’s Department of Defense budget request included six fewer F-35 Joint Strike Fighters than planned, setting off a firestorm of protests from the program’s boosters. Part of that pushback, organized by the Congressional F-35 Caucus, was a letter in support of the program signed by 128 retired senior military officers. The letter failed to disclose that 50 of the signatories stand to benefit if Congress authorizes more F-35 purchases because of their actual or potential personal or financial ties to the program.

he F-35 program is the ultimate case study of pervasive and longstanding problems in the defense acquisition system. The program is the most expensive in history, is a decade behind schedule, has breached cost caps multiple times, and is unsustainable in the long-term.

Officers Advocating for More F-35s Often Had Financial Stakes


The Navy’s version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, recently declared ready for combat, has netted unacceptably low “fully mission capable” rates—meaning it’s in fact almost never fully ready for combat—according to a document obtained by the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

The fact that the Navy is pushing ahead with the aircraft in spite of evidence that it is not ready for combat and could therefore put at risk missions, as well as the troops who depend on it to get to the fight, comes at the same time as the Pentagon’s annual operational testing report for fiscal year 2018 shows that the entire F-35 program, the most expensive weapon system in history, is not ready to face current or future threats.


“F-35 Far from Ready to Face Current or Future Threats, Testing Data Shows