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Sat

28

Feb

2009

I Can't Even Think Up A Headline For This Article...
Saturday, 28 February 2009 11:18
by Stephen P. Pizzo

So there I was last night, sipping my after-dinner brandy while reading the day's Wall Street Journal (or as a friend of mine calls it, “The Racing Form of Capitalism.”) The TV news droned on in the background. Being a sailor my attention was immediately drawn to the TV when the newsreader mentioned that someone was giving away a whole ship.

That someone, it turned out was you and I, via the US Navy. It seems they had a black elephant on their hands, a floating taxpayer funded money pit named, “Sea Shadow.” Never heard of it? Well of course not, because it invisible.. .or at least was supposed to be.

The Navy got a bad case of stealth-envy when the Air Force developed the stealth bomber, so they decided they needed a stealth thingy too. Their answer was the Sea Shadow. But somewhere between 1983 and last year, and somewhere between $0 taxpayer dollars and $200 million taxpayer dollars, it apparently dawned someone that we already had stealth ships. They're called submarines.

Of course the Navy knew that already. Nevertheless, money for all things stealthy were up for grabs and they wanted their hunk. They knew the if the Sea Shadow was going to compete with submarine financing it had to be able to disappear too, you know like submarines. But how to do that without turning the Sea Shadow into just another submarine, thereby negating it's very existence?

The answer the Navy came up with: hide this ship inside another ship.

BRILLIANT!

So, when prying eyes were around the stealthy Sea Shadow would be stealthy by donning its cape of invisibility – by hiding within the bowls of another ship the size of the freaking Hindenburg.

Who would ever guess? (If only the Twin Towers had been hidden inside a Not-The-Twin-Towers building!)

Anyway, that 25-year long funding farce apparently ran its course and now the Navy is trying to give this gold-plated piece of worthless crap to anyone willing to maintain it as a tourist attraction... a $200 million tourist attraction. So far, no takers, not even Six Flags.

My morbid curiosity was sparked. So this morning, I looked up the Sea Shadow project on the web. One thing led to another, as is the case with Internet research, and a pattern developed.

The Sea Shadow was a Lockheed/Martin project. According to what little the Navy has revealed about this particular boondoggle, construction of the Sea Shadow took place inside the barge, apparently between 1983 and 1985. Tests were conducted in 1986, but then resumed in 1993-1994. A new round of spending on the thing came in the wake of 9/11.

Now Sea Shadow is a $200 million of useless and unwanted piece of junk. If I were the CEO of an enterprise and some of my middle managers blew $200 million on something this stupid, I'd fire them. Then, being the vengeful Sicilian that I am, I'd sue them. Then I'd find the person who thought up the idea to begin with and park the Sea Shadow in their front yard with a sign that reads, “I blew $200 million of your money on this thing, and all I got was this lousy ship.”

But wait, there's more to this tale than meets the eye. The Sea Shadow was a creation of Lockheed, now Lockheed-Martin. This defense contractor has an unbroken history of wasting our money by the bushel billions.

The Sea Shadow may have out lived its fiscal funding usefulness, but, fear not, Lockheed-Martin has other “we're-all-gonna-die-if-you-don't-buy-this-from-us” projects in the pipeline.

For example, only last week we learned what it would cost us to replace the President's helicopter, Marine One. Now, I understand that helicopters tend to be more expensive than fixed-wing aircraft of the same size. But the cost of the new Marine One choppers, which carry 14 passengers, have soared to that of a NASA space craft... $11.2 BILLION.

Costs for Marine One have risen to the point where the price of each helicopter exceeds that of the presidential Boeing 747's known as Air Force One. They even sport an oval shaped cabin inside to mimic the Oval Office. Hooza.

And whose at the receiving end of funding for these flying limos? Well, our stealth boat folks over at Lockheed-Martin, of course.

But wait, there's more. If you order these choppers right now, you get to buy more F-22 Raptor supersonic jet fighters too, at the rock bottom price of just $191 million each. We can't offer this rock-bottom price all day, so act now. Operators are waiting. (Must be over 18 and possess the IQ of common road gravel to qualify.)

The total price tag for F22 Raptors the military wants comes to around $66 BILLION. They say they need the Raptor because it's a supersonic dog fighter, the first of its kind. And, of course, we all know that al Qaida is working on one of their own.

Okay, I made that last part up. The point is, in the 21st century, just who are we supposed to be supersonic dogfighting with? I mean, really, besides dogs, who dogfights anymore?

And who's behind the F22? Yes boys and girls, those Jabba the Hut money munchers over at Lockheed-Martin. And how does Lockheed-Martin get away with such sweet deals, year after year, decade after decade?

Duh

Between Lockheed and four associated F-22 contractors, over $65 million was spent on lobbying just last year, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. And there was a lot of bundling go on too. Employees of the companies ponied up another $11.3 million in political contributions to both parties, according to the center's data.

Lockheed-Martin makes damn sure it keeps congressional backers, in both parties, well fed. And when money doesn't do the trick, they hire them. Lockheed-Martin's rooster is a virtual Who's Who of former members of Congress, retired generals and former Pentagon officials. Their job is to make sure current members of congress, the military and DOD, know how sweet life can be, if they vote the right way — the Lockheed-Martin way.

"The F-22 is just one example of probably a half dozen," says Keith Ashdown of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. "This is why it's so hard to ever cut anything. Every weapons system that the administration has a bull's-eye on, there's a fleet of lobbyists and companies organizing to stop that. Decisions to make military investments should be based on the need of the war fighter, not the politics of who benefits."

So, Obama says he's going to go through the budget, “line by line.” Good. Someone should have been doing that all along, but better late than never. I just hope it's not too late.

After all, it was a Republican president, Ike, who warned against the rise of a “military/industrial complex,” which he warned could grow so fast and become so powerful that it could become a defacto shadow government. You know, like a government that can't (won't) provide health care for 50 million Americans, but can justify blowing $11 billion on flying oval offices and “stealth” ships that are so not-stealthy they have to be hidden from view inside another not-stealthy ships.

I'm just sayin'
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