Since the election, President-elect Donald Trump has stepped up his criticism of corporate America, vowing to cut costs and retain American jobs. His targets include companies planning to move jobs to other countries, as well as individual projects such as the costly Boeing Air Force One program.
In one of his latest shots, President-elect Donald Trump made the following comment on Twitter:
The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.
To his credit, the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter program is indeed fiscally out of control. With costs surpassing $400 billion, the F-35 has set a record for being the most expensive weapons system in military history. It has also been described as a defense project that is “too big to kill,” since it sustains more than 130,000 jobs in 45 states and nine countries.
Interestingly, Trump’s comment coincided with the delivery of the first two out of 50 F-35 jets ordered by Israel, which is the first foreign country to receive them. Israel held a special event to celebrate, with U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program head there to welcome the highly-anticipated arrival.
President-elect Trump has been quick to attack American companies for “out of control” projects that waste money, and he has also lashed out at NATO countries for not paying enough for U.S. protection. But he has nothing to say about Israel, which has freeloaded off of American power and taxpayer money for almost 70 years. He rarely passes on an opportunity to fiercely criticize President Obama’s policies, yet when the current administration squandered a record $38 billion in U.S. taxpayer money to Israel a few months ago, Trump was nowhere to be found.
Trump wants U.S. allies to pay their “fair share” for defense, but apparently Israel is an exception. Rather than sanctioning it for its human rights violations, or at the very least, refuse to supply it with weapons, the U.S. actually pays for Israeli military purchases. Israel receives approximately 55 percent of the U.S. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) budget, and at $38 billion, the recent military aid package is equivalent to almost 10 percent of the current costs of the F-35 fighter jet program. This is an absurd amount, especially considering that over 1.2 million U.S. military veterans lacked health insurance coverage according to a 2014 study. It is mindboggling that Democrats and Republicans are both willing to block Veterans Affairs funding, citing budget concerns and other pretenses, yet they show almost no hesitation in approving “aid” to Israel. When it comes to Israel, divisive politics disappear.
Regarding the F-35 program, Trump should have also criticized the many American politicians who have allowed Israel to freeride off the project and even play a “key role in keeping the program moving forward,” according to The Fiscal Times (FT). FT also mentions that Israel has helped to put “downward pressure on prices,” but this is misleading and highly unlikely.
For one, a White House fact sheet on the recent military aid package openly admits that Israel will receive at least 33 F-35 aircraft using U.S FMF. Essentially, Israel will acquire two squadrons of the world’s most advanced aircraft for free, thanks to American taxpayer money. So, Israeli demand for the jet may help put downward pressure on prices for Lockheed Martin, the contractor, but at the end of the day the American population is paying the bill.
Furthermore, American and Israeli media report that Israel’s F-35 “purchase” is valued at around five billion dollars, or $100 million per jet. Yet, a 2011 report by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) shows that the actual cost is closer to $300 million per aircraft, after accounting for the massive research and development costs spent so far. If the F-35s were indeed valued at $100 million each, Israel got the bargain of the century.
But Israel can milk the situation even more. Currently, it is the only country that has permission from the Pentagon to customize the F-35. Therefore, as it has done with the F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, Israel will let the U.S. deal with the major development and manufacturing costs of the planes, while it focuses on improving the technology for its own gain.
Donald Trump claims he wants “to make good deals for this country,” and if he is serious, he would reassess the horrible deal that currently exists between the U.S. and Israel. The timing of his recent attack on the F-35 program might have been a veiled criticism of U.S. aid to Israel, but unfortunately this does not seem to be the case, since on the same day his top aide reiterated his intention to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
Perhaps much of the American public is unaware of the extent of Israel’s exploitative relationship with the U.S., or just how much of their hard-earned money is handed to Israel. Or perhaps many people believe the propaganda that the alliance with Israel is essential to U.S. interests. Given that both major parties are largely united when it comes to U.S. policies on Israel, it is imperative that the American public know the facts so that it can begin to question this illogical relationship, and hopefully call for change.