This spring, tragic military air crashes claimed the lives of numerous aviators and crew members, prompting federal lawmakers to question military leadership. An analysis of military aviation mishaps by Military Times shows a 40 percent increase in the number of accidents “involving all the military’s manned fighter, bomber, helicopter and cargo warplanes” over a five-year period. Accidents occurring between fiscal years 2013 and 2017 killed 133 services members. Some experts believe the spike in air crashes is a legacy of budget cuts enacted through sequestration in 2013. Certainly, military funding played a significant role in readiness issues, yet the problems are more complex.
Government contractors’ unsuccessful, inefficient work rewarded
The leaner budget forced military officials to make tough decisions, but critics argue officials tend to bow to the demands of expensive government contractors rather than invest in well-trained personnel. This choice is often made despite contractors’ driving up the cost of next-generation warfare projects, such as new aircraft platforms. Time and again, projects that failed to live up to promised results and meet agreed-upon deadlines are allowed to continue siphoning taxpayer dollars at the expense of personnel and service members’ lives.
Contractors’ agreements with the government remain locked tight because the government doesn’t want to bear the cost of canceling such a contract. However, existing aircraft continue to age and are subject to wear and tear from constant warfare while the government waits for adequate replacement aircraft.
Demand for war exceeds aircraft capacity
Following the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq in 2011, the number of military aviation crashes began to decrease. Three years later, the global security landscape changed once again, driving up the demand for military aircraft missions. One active duty Air Force maintainer told Military Times that, “After 17 years of running this [war] machine at near capacity, the tank is approaching empty.”
So, rather than holding contractors accountable, officials have opted for the heightened and unnecessary risk of danger to service members, an unfair demand when they already sacrifice more than many of us will ever know. The men and women in the U.S. armed forces deserve the best and safest aircraft, not the excuses of clumsy government contractors unable to live up to the promises of next-generation warfare equipment or meeting self-imposed deadlines.