tv Q A CSPAN April 21, 2013 11:00pm-12:01am EDT
we have had on customer information systems or things of that nature, they have not been a tax protecting critical u.s. infrastructure from cyber attacks. monday night on "the communicators." on c-span2. >> this week on "q&a," rajiv chandrasekaran discusses his story describing the f-35 fighter jet, the defense department's newest and most expensive weapon system. >> rajiv chandrasekaran, you did a front-page piece on a sunday about the f-35. what is it? >> it is the most expensive weapons system in the history of the united states. history of mankind, quite frankly. it is an advanced warplane that is to be used by the air force, navy, and the marine corps.
it is the replacement for the f- 16. a new advanced all-purpose fighter jet. it is still in development, is an incredibly troubled program, it has gone tens of billions of dollars over budget. i bought into this program as a way to write about the overall challenges. this program is singular in terms of its cost overruns, delays, and the way it has been structured. its most effective attributes are not all of its radars and sensors and missiles and stealth
technology and the ability to fight at supersonic speeds. it may well be the way it has been designed to evade budget cutters in washington. >>fe between the f-35 and the f-22? >> the f-22 has had its share of technical troubles. that was supposed to be the high-end fighter. the replacement for the f-15. it is a real high performance fighter. it is meant to win against any potential adversary in dogfights. the plan was to have fewer f-22 and then you would have more of the f-35.
that would be the mainstay, for the next 40 or 50 years. if you are fighting against a sophisticated adversary, the f 22argoing in and they e fighting in the air against the adversaries of combat aircraft. the f-35s comes in and they are carrying the bombs that will take out the other military targets. they are the second waves that come in to do the real heavy lifting. these are planes that are supposed to be all purpose. the f-35 is supposed to be able to provide support to combat troops on the ground if they're fighting and some african nation. they're supposed to be able to provide a degree of aerial reconnaissance in other parts of the world.
this was supposed to be -- if the f-22 was going to be the cadillac in thskies for e air fo5 was supposed to be the chevrolet. >> the f-22 stopped at 187 airplanes. why? >> because of the engineering challenges, because of costs, the pentagon and congress decided to do was to say, we cannot afford to build as many of these as we want. the overall buy from. the overall cost, it is not that much lower. what you have, but the real tragedy is that the cost per plane is much greater than what was supposed to be.
>> what did you see there? >> boy, something i would love to flyn. you saw a video that both plays up america's combat air superiority. it shows off a very sexy airplane. it was designed in a very futuristic way. nothing like those images of planes taking off and landing from ships to demonstrate american military might.
very well produced ad that helps to -- e aelement to this. we should have the lockheed martin is the principal contractor building nests. >> how do they compared to other contractors? >> there are the largest contractor. they build a whole host of weapon systems, they do a lot of work for the military, classified work. the biggest part of their business is providing hardware and other services to the defense department. >> if i read it right, it is run by a woman. >> a number of our largest defense contractors are run by women. >> any reason why this has happened. >> it was fortuitous in some of these other firms. the rise of female executives
has been occurring over time. at some of the nation's largest defense contractors. it shows just how women are breaking through the glass ceiling in a field that has been dominated by men. >> when you set out to do this article, where did you start? >> i started by reaching out to some friends in the u.s. marine corps because i knew they were invested in the f-35. the f-35 is supposed to replace every marine combat airplane that they have. i spent a lot of time with marines in afghanistan. i want to learn more about this. in those initial conversations that led me to reach out to more people, to critics on the outside, but to folks at the air
force, navy, to really borrow into this. what i learned very quickly is that this is a very complex program with a very troubled history and it was not something i would understand overnight. i spent weeks and weeks. >> when did you start it? >> i started in the fall. i was distracted by of some other things, not the least of which was the resignation of david petraeus. i came back to it earlier this year in large part -- in the fall, i was a little unsure. once it became clear that we were going to be going off the sequestration cliff, and issues of the future of the defense budgets, the scope and scale of
its work coming to the floor, it took on -- the story of the troubles, the story of the giant costs is not new. a number of my esteemed colleagues in the press corps have written about it in recent years. to me, all of this needed to be set in the debate that is now in washington about the federal budget. i thought, if i could examine this program through the lens of budget cutting that would be a new way to look at this and it might tell us we did not already know.
>> i want to put on the screen a slight from your article. 2001, 2852 planes for $233 billion. move ahead 12 years, the pentagon plan is 2443 plants, and $397.1 billion. the design and production, $84 billion has already been spent. what happened? >> the price has almost doubled. we are getting fewer planes for much money. we have spent an enormous amount of money and the plane is only about 17% tested. the software code is to be written. the marine version still having engineering challenges.
what that slide tells you is the sheer amount of money -- the growth of this program in terms of the initial estimate was so different from the reality. this reflects the technical challenges. what critics will tell you is that this is a program that has run amok. it has run aground. it has run out of control.
where they can fly planes like that and helicopters. the marines want to continue to have fixed wing combat aircraft and fly them off of those. if we have a plane that can do that, that doubles the nation's carrier fleet the navy has 11 full-length aircraft carriers. you could put the ships in other parts of the world or if you were fighting a war can in a broader array and have those ships serve as platforms to both launched those sorts of plans and bring themome. it is worth noting that version of the airplane is the costliest and most troubled one. the challenge of taking this fighter jet and getting it to land and take off like a helicopter. even the massive engineering accomplishment, there is still a lot of kinks to be worked out.
just getting to that point has involved billions and billions of dollars of design work. >> when did the f-35 planning process started? >> the program itself began in 2001. planning for began years before that. the revision was going to be a noble one. an idea that you build one aircraft and it would be used by three different services, at the air force, the marines, and the navy. air force planes could fly with navy planes, they would be able to talk to each other. that did not happen. in part because the services decided to -- the navy wanted theirs to fly off the carriers. the marines want to go up and down like this.
the air force one of the plans to be stealthy, to fly longer ranges. you have these requirements that started to make each of the three versions more and more different. what was supposed to be an airplane that would have 70% similarity between the three versions now is about 70% different. that has been a big factor that has led to the increase in costs. >> chairman of the armed services committee is not going to run again, we see a lot of them on this network. here he is talking about the f- 22. let's listen to his attitude about that a few years ago. >> this debate is not about whether or not we will have the capability of the f-22. about how many we should have and what cost.
we are talking about whether or not we should accept the recommendations of two commanders in chief, two secretaries of defense, two chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, 187 f-22s is what we need and all that we can afford. who was pushing for more f-22s? >> members of congress from states where those planes are . and where lockheed martin has some of its largest business interests as well as some of the key contractors. >> 45 states have something to do with the f-35. i was on there website yesterday and it is up to 47. what is going on? >> critics call this political engineering.
try to distribute as broadly as you can around the country so that you spread the employment around i knew when banks support of members of congress from around the country so that it is not just this helps texas or georgia or california, virginia. but you get to smaller states, too, to help win new friends on capitol hill. >> the list of the states and how much money they get for the f-35 and how many people are employed. california is number 1 with 27,000 jobs. not sure why texas has 41,000 with only $4.9 billion. you can see which states have the most jobs at of all this. the chairman of the armed services committee is from california. we have a top 15. almost 1000 jobs at least. georgia, indiana, miigan,
howh, vermont, washington. much of a political game is this business right here? >> lockheed martin would argue that it is only for official suppliers around the country. those who are critical would say they are actively trying to spread it around and there is no reason to do it other than to try to win political support. the bulk of the plane is built in texas and california. that is where the real work is being done. there is a benefit to having -- even a few dozen jobs in a small state, it is a way into trying to convince those members that this is a program that is worth $397.1 billion of our taxpayer money. >> i will pull out some quotes
from your piece and you can explain it. he is convinced the f-35 will become a superstar in the arsenal of the united states. >> why i thought this was interesting is because it speaks to the approach the air force is taking to aerial warfare. instead of saying, like the infantry in the army, that you will have some losses when you go into an operation.
we will send planes to do some of these bombing runs. we may lose some of them. the air force wants to establish we did in the first gooro zeotke it wants to put in more and more enhancements, and that costs sd fosome money. to tryo make the planes conflicts. faster, to evade enemy fire. what you get are more expensive planes. >> who did you try to talk to who would not talk to you? >> i stayed away from the senior most political leadership because their positions are pretty well known. what i wanted to do was to reach out to the three services and say, in an environment of a constricting budget, why do you
nt to spend some much money on this? i reached out to the pentagon office that is managing the program to understand what they were doing to fix this program. and then to people outside the military to get their perspective. >> how cooperative was lockheed martin? >> they were pretty cooperative. they made some of their executives available to me for interviews. they got me to sit in a flight simulator. just across the river in crystal city, virginia, not more than a 10-minute car ride from capitol hill, as part of their flight simulator center, it is a place where members of congress and their staff members and other government officials can go.
it is a chance to show off the virtues of the airplane to the washington crowd. i did travel down to an air force base in florida to see the plane in action. on the florida panhandle in pensacola. >> is there a prison down there? >> good question. some watergate figures are in a prison down there. >> i tried to stay away from prison. >> sunday, march 10, was when this article was published. >> there are a lot of classified features on this airplane. it has a lot of electronic warfare capabilities. it has a lot of really high-tech sensors that are able to the backing up data, see what is up on the ground from a distance and crunch it all through computing technology. there is a lot of capabilities
to this airplane that the military and lockheed martin could not talk to me about. >> when the f-35 finishes testing, there will be no yes or no, up or down decisions. that is totally deliberate, it was all in the name of ensuring it could not be cancelled. >> it speaks to what i think is the most remarkable way in which this program was designed. it helps evade budget cutters on capitol hill.
normally you would think when you are designing an airplane, you build a prototype. you kick the tires. and then you decide, i will build it. there is no prototype for the half-35. while we are still designing his plane, while millions of lines of software still have to be written, lockheed martin has beenuthorized by the pentagon and paid to begin production of these planes. lockheed barton has built 65 of them for the military. it is only 17% tested. by the time the plane is fully tested in 2017, according to defense department estimates, we will have 365 of them.
all the planes being built, but it cost money to go back and retrofit them. by the time is fully tested, may be and has too many flaws, there will be so many of them, it will not make sense to cancel the program. >> here is some video of the air force you talked about. here is the f-35 air force version.
>> f-35 airforce version, what is the difference between the f- 15 and the f-16? >> it is stealthy. you do not see bombs and missiles hanging off of it. they're all in a weapons buy underneath. it allows the plane to be more effectively to evade enemy radar. the plane is supersonic, like the f15 and f-16. what is most remarkable is you what the cockpit looks like. if you have been in a commercial jet, switches everywhere. the cockpit of the f-35, it looks futuristic and it looks like a cessna aircraft. it has these touchscreens -- this place that you can touch with your fingertip to execute demands.
it has a control stick and a couple of other switches, but that is it. it has fewer than two dozen switches. it is all computerized. i was asking a lockheed martin official, how do pilots t this? >> for the older guys is a lot tougher. you have the ipad generation. if you walk to identify or hits a target, you are looking at the video display. the plane knows and computes how to hit it. >> who are we worried about? >> that is a good question.
the defense department, lockheed martin, would say there are a big nation states out there who still have sophisticated air forces. they do not take off names specifically, but all of us know they're referring to countries like china -- >> same level? >> no. this is a generation more dance than anything else. that since the defense department very well. people you are concerned about cost say, but do you really need
something the sophisticated? do you need this many of them? could you not achieve some of this more efficiently? they also argue that advancements and unmans aviation policy progressing so fast that 10 years from now, some of the staff may be obsolete because we will be doing a lot more of its with unmanned technology. >> more political examples of this, this goes back to december 5, 2011, senator john mccain. >> in a nutshell, the program has been both a scandal in a tragedy. the program has been in development phase for 10 years. over that time, it has been a beneficiary of $56 billion of taxpayer investment. we still do not have an aircraft that provides the air force, navy, marine corps with the combat capability they need.
>> what happens after that? the u.s. marine corps, the most politically adept of all the services, decides to station the first operational squads of f- 35s. they are not really operating yet. they invite john mccain. it might be good to read what he has to say when he comes to that ceremony. it is very different than what he said on the floor of the senate. >> this is a long article and i cannot get my finger on it.
>> he strikes a far more conciliatory tone. he is far less critical of the program. >> what happened to him and his attitude? >> it is a source of employment for his family. with the marines bringing the squadron, that will bring jobs. >> in your article, you quote an electrical engineer who worked as a manager beginning in 2001 said the development orbeset nization i why, after all these years would they be in this type of position? >> no one was paying attention in washington. this program kicks off in 2001. what happens this year? the war in afghanistan. the leadership of the pentagon was so consumed with those wars,
they never paid attention to weapons procurement programs. at least weapons programs that are not directly related to the ongoing wars. as this program was having these are the troubles, there was no adult leadership at the pentagon. lockheed martin, thisagemt ourc ab that point of the pentagon coming down and scolding can because it knew that nobody was watching. >> this is only a 30-second clip. he is talking about another issue regarding the f-35.
this was back in 2010. >> all across america, families are tightening their belts, making good with less. eyxpect the me fro ine thion eneifr they hear congress is pushing forward with an unnecessary $3 billion program. only in washington could a company that lost competition in the private sector and already controls 88% of the military come seeking a government directed subsidy and call that competition. >> what is he talking about? >> the alternative engine. for years, another reason why people work has focused on the bigger problems with the airplane, compress was trying to push on to the defense department's and another engine for his plane.
the engine for the aircraft that the pentagon wanted is being built by pratt whitney. some members of congress were pushing a second engine built by the rival contractor in large part because of political -- the hope among some that it would lead to jobs in their states. it was a classic case of congress foisting on the defense department something it did not want to add it to another $3 billion. it was a double sideshow and distracted from some of the greater problems and challenges. >> does any other country in the world have this set up? >> no. no other country spends nearly what we do on this. >> is it good or bad that congress -- >> it is hopeful that congress
acts as a check on some of these runaway programs. in many cases, congress is trying to push the pentagon to do it staff that it does not want to do. members of congress wanted for their own interest. we continue to build tanks in ohio. why do we do that? members of the ohio delegation want the jobs. the army does not think it needs any more tanks. >> there is a quote in your article about the marine corps's ability to get what it wants. i think it is an army officer.
>> why does the navy army need its own ai the answer goes back to world war ii. the marine corps felt abandoned on the pacific islands. since then, they have insisted on bringing their own combat aviation to fight. if you look at iraq and afghanistan, there were persistent on bringing their own helicopters, their own jets. the marines, their desire to bring their own aircraft, going to part of the country that was far less significant than where they should have gone. it is that same thinking that drives the marines to want the f-35. we need to have the same kind of combat aviation gear force on the marines do.
do they really? the marine corps really need to be able to participate in the first strike attack? those of the fundamental questions that members of congress do not really talk about when it comes to looking at programs like this. >> has the navy landed one of these f-35 carriers yet? >> no. >> the actual plane is never seen with the arresting gear. ♪
>> that is from the lockheed martin website. >> they have not designed the appropriate -- it is complex engineering, but to be able to catch the arresting wires. the way the plane is designed, the hook has to be far from the back and that creates its own set of challenges. this is what happens when you try to build one size fits all. it becomes much harder to meet these requirements. >> i want to put back on the screen the slide that shows the amount of money and the number of planes that will be spent. on the screen, in 2001, at 2852 plans for $233 billion.
>> what is the cost of this airplane now? >> $160 million apiece. >> what will be in a few years? >> it will drop to around $100 billion. $100 million, pardon me. those are operational targets. >> that is what is driving the navy. to reexamine whether it wants to buy as many f-35s as it has committed to or whether it can get away with the advanced f-18 for the moment. and the wait for an additional advancements in unmanned technology and maybe gets out entirely -- >> with a military contract, how much would they have to pay lockheed martin? >> they have to pay some sort of penalty. it would be a fraction of what they're planning to spend on
these planes. >> you read the editor-in-chief of the "stanford daily." i want to take a break to get some background. i want to show you an appearance that you had on this network back in 1998. >> what we are seeing in the internet is so young and it is emerging so quickly. in the real world, we know there is a different standard for the "national enquirer" than "the new york times." it is not clear on the internet. a lot of people who were subscribing to a website not known much about it, there is no longstanding reputation. >> what were you doing back then?
>> a lot of gray hair between then and now. >> that is what i wanted to get to, you have been at "the post" for 19 years. how much time have you spent on the military? >> the best part of the last decade. i was a foreign correspondent in southeast asia when 9/11 occurred. i quickly turned into a war correspondent. i was in pakistan a couple of days after 9/11 and eventually into afghanistan.
the following summer, i moved to the middle east. i started going into iraq. i spent the following two years running our bureau in baghdad. i came back to write a book about the iraq war. i did some management jobs at the newspaper. managing in the news room -- after my stint in management, there was nothing i wanted to do more than run off to another war. i covered the war in afghanistan. split in my time between washington, d.c., and afghanistan. i wrote that book you are holding up. >> you have the hardback version. we have gone through 10 years of the iraq war. >> the longest war in our nation's history.
>> when you look back, did we get our money's worth? >> iraq? iraq, god. the true financial cost, north of a trillion dollars. lost almost 4500 lives, countless thousands of others wounded. we have a government there that is -- i make no excuses for saddam hussein. we have a government there which is more closely aligned with iran than it is with the united states. we have a fundamental political issue unresolved between the principal groups in iraqi society. all for what? there were no weapons of mass destruction. the liberation of iraq led to the arab spring. at that price tag, there is no way it was worth more than a trillion dollars and as many lives as it cost.
>> you did a piece on march 15. we have to go back. this is a myth. the troop surge succeeded. >> you can bring those principal factions together to force a grand agreement. you have some longer-term stability. the surge for security, iraqi leaders did not take advantage of that security to force the necessary compact. >> iraq is relatively peaceful. >> horrendous attacks occur almost daily or weekly.
>> iraq is a democracy. >> on paper, it is. but the prime minister is moving to consolidate a lot of power in ways that are disenfranchising political rivals and leading many iraqis to see echoes of saddam hussein. >> will he run again? >> i believe he is term limited out. >> iraq is in iran's pocket? >> iraq and iran are very closely allied, but when you look at -- to provide supplies to the syrian dictator bashar al-assad, there is one view that he is being forced to do so because the iranian pressure.
he his owneasonswant have the iranians support assad. if the syrian rebels topple the government in damascus, they will work in concert with iraq's minority population to further destabilize his government. >> your final myth is the americans have already left. >> we have hundreds of personnel there. there is an american presence in iraq. >> your personal reaction to general petraeus's situation when he had to leave the cia and stanley mcchrystal when he had
to leave his post. what was your peonea >> i was surprised by both. petraeus, a man who preaches great virtue. talk a lot about the importance of character. it was not something i expected. i am not the only one among the people who knew him to have been deeply surprised and saddened by that. mcchrystal, i spent a lot of time with him. i am not trying to say that did not happen, i was surprised his public affairs officer would not such particular ground rules with the reporter and i was surprised that he did not give a
odpain instead, the president accepted his offer of resignation. >> when he wrote his book, he never named michael hastings. was that a smart thing to do? he never really explained himself. >> i would have liked to have seen more. this is a defining moment in his career. forced out of the army. he deserved more than a page and a half in a book. it has led him tmarkle career in transition where he is teaching at yale university.
he is open up a consulting firm that is doing work. he has not gone away, he is a brilliant guy and a very capable leader. i would have liked to have seen him talk a little bit more about some of the lessons he has taken away. >> back to your march 10 piece, "too big to bail." did you meet him? >> that was at another base in maryland where our photographer went to go take pictures. >> this is lindsey graham on the floor.
>> the air force, are we going to have enough airplanes? what happens to the f-35? topit depes t the nerwar >> let's say sequestration goes into effect. it will be hard to modernize. >> it will be impossible to modernize. >> would that make it more difficult to go into a situation? >> yes, sir. >> senator is still in the air force? >> reservist. >> what was going on? >> he was talking about the impacts of sequestration on the f-35 program. initially, it is not having much of an impact. the bigger question is what would happen if further rounds of cuts take place. that discussion really avoids the central issue, which is how many planes do they need?
how many can the united states afford? >> you are making too much noise with your paper. it is a big spread, inside two full pages. a journalism question. how hard is it today with the shrinking size of newspapers to get this story in a newspaper? >> it is not as easy as it once was. when you have a story that is important, when it touches upon key issues in washington, and when you can tell it in a compelling way, i can still build the necessary support. they're committed to doing this sort of work.
>> what kind of reaction did you get? >> phenomenal reaction. from people within the military, people in the political leadership of our government, it got a lot of traction. it is not a brand new story, it has just been told in a different way. at this moment, it was something to help clarify. >> i want to read this paragraph. -- program supports about what happened to those states?
two more states have been added. did they study that and do that on purpose? >> the compaou deny it, t crs y,hey are looking for how to spread that wealth as broadly as possible. it is not just u.s. states. they are suppliers around the world. >> how many different countries will buy this aircraft? >> eight countries. the hope is they will sell it to more. some of those countries have not just committed, they have invested money upfront. this is another barrier to cutting because the united states buys fewer of these airplanes, it drives up the cost per plane for the allies. there is a potential diplomatic
cost. let'thuntabuys 500. that raises the cost for britain,hich is counting on the f-35 to replace all of its jets on its aircraft carriers. it is like the marine version of the f-35. it is not nearly as sophisticated. >> i wrote down a bunch of countries. britain, italy, norway, canada, australia. when you look back at this piece what would be a follow-up? where will people be able to go to find more information? >> that is a very good question. some very good work that has been done by the government accountability office and the cbo. they have written some very good reports, some of the best has been done by those organizations.
if you want to delve into this, do a google search for the f-35 and gao. >> what is a follow-up for you? >> i am looking at some other military budget issues. it is important to look at some of the trade-offs. as we go forward, what can we afford? what is important for national defense? what are the sorts of things we waste money on? >> who were you writing for? how did you appeal to them? >> i tried to make the plane the central character. stories about military procurement, budget issues, they are complex, hard to understand, filled with jargon.
i tried to step back and say, how can i tell this in a way that will be engaging to people? the way to do this would be to focus on the plane itself. >> two books you've got out. thank you very much for joining us. >> great to talk to you. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013]
>> for a dvd copy of this program, call 1-877-662-7726. to give us your comments about this program, visit us at qanda.org. as rams are also available c-span podcasts. >> next, the funeral service for former prime minister margaret thatcher. then i look at last week's events in the congressional agenda. then the senate hearing with defense secretary chuck hagel on the 2014 budget request. >> she was very bright, she was very political. which is why she and lincoln got together in first place. languagesseveral fluently. she was extremely well-educated. she had all these things going for her. but she had suffered a series of tremendous