'F-35 is Not Ready to Fly', US Defence Companies 'Buy Politicians' – Journalist

The US Department of Defence recently opened an investigation about reports that acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan has been favouring Boeing, where he worked for more than three decades, at the expense of competitors.

"The Department of Defence Office of Inspector General has decided to investigate complaints we recently received that Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors, allegedly in violation of ethics rules", Defence Department Inspector General spokesperson Dwrena Allen said, as quoted by Politico.

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On 13 March, independent watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics requested the investigation based on a January report from Politico claiming that Shanahan, while he was deputy defence secretary, disparaged Lockheed Martin in Defence Department meetings, and held up Boeing as an example, the report said. The report also cited a December article by Bloomberg saying that Shanahan had pressured the US Air Force to buy Boeing F-15X jets; even though the air force said it was not interested in the aircraft. Before coming to the Defence Department, Shanahan — an engineer by training — worked for Boeing for 31 years on the civil aviation side.

He has signed an ethics agreement recusing himself from decisions involving Boeing.

Sputnik discussed this with David Lindorff, an American investigative reporter.

Sputnik: How high is the probability that these unfortunate events will prompt an extensive probe into all of the Boeing products, including military aircraft?

David Lindorff: There's two questions that you're asking really. One is how high they should go and the other one how high they will go because Boeing is a very powerful company. I think it's the major [largest] exporter in the United States in terms of dollar value if I'm not mistaken; it's a huge part of our export economy. Plus, it's also a huge defence contractor, so to take them on in a serious way and really look at the further truth is asking a lot in our rather corrupted political system. This is pretty big stuff; Shanahan clearly […] the instances that are sided where he really pushed for things that didn't make sense like an upgraded F-15 made by Boeing that doesn't have any… approaching stealth capabilities of the F-35 is being pushed by him and a lot are being bought now under pressure at the expense of Lockheed's F-35. Not to say that that isn't riddled with problems too. If this carries over, I mean here's a guy who was, obviously, willing to violate at least ethics and maybe the law, who for years was heading the civil side of Boeing; maybe there is a lot of corruption in terms of letting planes get out into commercial field without being as safe as they're supposed to be.

Sputnik: What's the general feeling from yourself and in America with regard to this because there're lots of specific angles and questions that this raises now?

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David Lindorff: Yes, indeed. And again, you raised a point of whether they will really go into Shanahan. And I think one approach they can take is to blame it all on Shanahan and make an example of him as a corrupt individual and then leave Boeing out of it. That's a classic way that the US handles corporate corruption as they don't blame the corporation or the system, they blame an individual and then they pile onto that individual. Whether they will systemically look at whether Boeing has corruptly bought influence on the agencies like the National Transportation Safety Agency or the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates safety and registers planes and all of that, is another question. And I think more than likely there is a lot of corruption; it seems like, for example, that the US held off on ordering freezing of use by the 737 MAX-8 that crashed twice, even after the second crash, totally unacceptable. People were flying all over the place in them whole other countries were saying "no, you can't use it." That really does look like commercial pressure has played a role in allowing people to fly in an unsafe aircraft.

Sputnik: Why is the Pentagon continuing flowing money into a company with questionable records?

David Lindorff: One if the big things is I've written a lot about this stuff and I'd studied it for years; I actually took a class with Seymour Melman, a professor at Columbia who focused on the innate corruption of the military-industrial industries. And clearly what is going on is that the American military system and the arms industry which gets $350 billion a year out of the Pentagon's budget, half of the budget goes to the arms industry every year; that's a huge industry in the United States.

These guys buy politicians, they also put generals on their boards of directors wen generals retire; so generals have an interest in that roles, they have an interest in going easy on these companies so that they get these sinecures that pay them fortune to be on these boards of directors which do very little; so it's like a millionaire retirement by doing the right things while they are in the Pentagon in terms of buying stuff from these companies. So, it's just a massively corrupt system that doesn't really care whether the things they are buying work or not.

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Just to give you one example, the F-35 is not ready to fly — there's problems with the software, there's problems with the wings that are not going to last as long as they are supposed to; the maintenance is now going through the roof of the project and the project will probably end up costing double than the 1.5 trillion that it's projected to cost right now. And what the Pentagon did was — and that is something they do frequently — they pushed it into operation status to get it pot into being flown abroad and everywhere and so that they can start buying them; and saying "we'll fix the problems retroactively". That's a hugely more expensive way to fix planes if you know they aren't any good right now; but that's what they've done — they've put it into production and called it combat-ready when it's not.

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Sputnik: Why is this being allowed to continue all the time? But it's a money-driving grid which is driving money, which is driving the whole thing. I mean, how is this particular thing ever going to end? It's never going to end. It's a rhetorical question, isn't it?

David Lindorff: In the end, that's why the people who say "this has to stop if we are going to have any kind of a decent world" have it right. I was listening to a speech by Tulsi Gabbard who is one of the presidential candidates who happens to be an active duty reservist in Hawaii's National Guard. She made a very impassioned speech about how we have to start spending all this money on our military. Shanahan, by the way, was the one who announced that the Pentagon had failed its audit about which I wrote in the Nation in December. He said "we failed the audit but we expected to." He almost made a joke out of it. An agency that spends roughly a trillion dollars a year, we don't even know and I don't even know whether the leadership of the Pentagon knows where they spend all their money. There's no way to trace it. It's simply mind-boggling.

Sputnik: Bering in mind Boeing shortcomings, how typical are such technical failures for the military industrial complex in the US in general? We've discussed that, of course; but what are the chances that these F-35s, for instance, could require additional scrutiny? The bottom line is that there are great concerns about safety, not just safety for the military element of these aircraft, these jets, but the biggest concern is that the civil airlines that they are making are being sent all around the world to various countries and Boeing is such an iconic brand and it's had such a great record and so many as good as your last flight as they say. That's the biggest concern in terms of safety that could really ruin the reputation of Boeing, isn't it?

David Lindorff: If they find out, which they very well may, that there was a software glitch that causes the 737 MAX 8 to nosedive and not be able to get stopped by pilots without taking extraordinary measures they are not trained to take, that is a huge issue that should make people really question what Boeing is doing. Especially they'll have to look at process to find out why something that they were getting complaints about from pilots for months in the US and did nothing about it — there was really sort of a corporate culture of covering it up it seems like — and that would be catastrophic to Boeing's reputation because as you said they had a fairly sterling reputation for safety. This would kill it.

The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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