06/03/2013 04:27 pm ET Updated Aug 03, 2013

Three Hundred Million Dollars of Junk

According to InsideDefense, the Army has just announced that it "plans to sell Long-Endurance-Multi-Intelligence Vehicle [LEMV] -- possibly for scrap..." It all started in 2009, when Pentagon officials "spearheaded an effort to rapidly develop and acquire LEMV to meet a requirement advance by commanders in Afghanistan." They wanted, and the Pentagon said it could deliver, "an airship capable of flying at 20,000 feet and carrying payloads of up to 2500 pounds for 21 days as soon as January 2012." They didn't.

At the beginning of this year, the LEMV supposedly "was on the three yard line." They never got it across the goal line with the military operation in Afghanistan beginning to wind down this year and the deep budget cuts ordered by the 2011 Budget Control Act, the DOD decided to cancel the LEMV.

The Army offered to sell the LEMV back to Hybrid Air Vehicles [HAV], its manufacturer, for $44 million. HAV didn't have the money, offered $10 million with installment payments. DOD said no, and now the LEMV may end up as scrap. Quoting InsideDefense, "One industry official expressed concerns that the 'vagaries' of the plant clearance process could result in the airship's being broken up for scrap. 'It could be sold and turned into rubber bands,' said the representative." Maybe that won't happen, but 'disassembly of the air vehicle is expected to be completed in mid-to end of June."

The message we should take from all this is that weapons being built for particular needs may be obsolete before they are finished.

The "three variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapon development program, are expected to reach initial operational capability by February 2019, according to a joint service report submitted to Congress today [May 31, 2013]. That leaves me with two questions, will the F-35 make that deadline and if so, will the air forces need it anymore.

Three hundred million dollars worth of junk is bad enough, three billion dollars of junk is 10 times worse.