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Itemizing our treasure

 |  NCR Today

The New York Times published a chart last week of the Pentagon’s biggest boondoggles.

I wrote about the $135 billion we've spent on ballistic missile defense. Today let's consider the littoral combat ship, named the Sea Fighter.

The littoral region of a sea or lake is the costal area, and it seemed like a good idea to build 55 shallow-draft vessels to fight in costal waters. They were budgeted at $220 million apiece, but now the first ten ships being built are coming in at $650 million each.

Since 2005 we've spent $8 billion and expect to spend an additional $30 billion. I note that that's New York Times math. My arithmetic, multiplying 55 ships by the cost-overrun estimate of $650 million is a mere $35 and three-quarts billion. NYT may be factoring in more cost overruns, plus, of course, maintenance, training and parts contracts.

The Times notes that the boats are made of aluminum and are flammable. John McCain thinks they are neither operationally effective nor reliable. And the boats made the Government Accountability Office boondoggle list.

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One can make a case for any weapon system as essential to meet some threat. That's the job of the engineers who work for arms manufacturers and the strategic analysts who work for the Pentagon.

But we never ask the Pentagon to decide among their many ideas and Congress has not been able to say no except in the rarest of circumstances.

How important are these littoral combat ships to our security? Are they as important as raising teachers' salaries to attract those excellent teachers whose students thrive? Are the combat ships as important as health care and housing for all?

Lent is a good time for reflecting on where we are putting our treasure and our hearts. I'll write about unmanned (sic) combat systems next.

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