Indeed, on Thursday Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona) criticized Trump's proposed top-line defense budget plan as simply not enough. He said in a press statement that the budget doesn't amount to the 10 percent increase as touted by the White House but is "a mere 3 percent over President Obama's defense plan, which has left our military underfunded, undersized, and unready to meet the threats of today and tomorrow."
According to Grazier, the Pentagon waste needs to be addressed and overhead too. Moreover, he believes there's a need to "reexamine a dependence on contractors that can cost as much as four times more than federal employees. But none of this will happen unless Congress forces these changes, and they can only do that by restraining budgets."
Grazier also said spending big money on some of the programs with a history of problems needs to be looked at more closely, including the F-35 stealth fighter, as well as the Navy's newest class of aircraft carriers, the Ford Class. Then there's the Navy's littoral combat ship program, which the U.S. Government Accountability Office in December concluded "has taken longer, cost more, and delivered less capability than expected."
"None of these systems are performing all that well," he said.
Trump recently visited the USS Gerald R. Ford super-carrier, built by Huntington Ingalls Industries for around $13 billion, or $2.5 billion over budget. The Ford-Class carrier program has a price tag of approximately $40 billion and there have been calls to scale back the program. Some critics suggest even the new carriers are vulnerable at sea.
The president wants to increase the Navy's fleet to 350 ships, up from today's force of 275 deployable battle ships. That will require the investment of nearly $700 billion over 30 years and there's some concern whether the shipyards can meet the goal due to shortages of skilled workers and other obstacles.
Grazier questions the decision by the Navy to use a new electromagnetic launch technology system for aircraft on the Ford-Class carriers instead of sticking with the steam-powered catapult system on the battle-tested Nimitz-Class carriers. Swapping out older systems has resulted in a "very large expense and the system does not work all that well yet," he said.
Meantime, the retired Marine officer also is critical of the F-35, a program projected to cost more than $1 trillion over its life cycle of about 53 years. He said the Pentagon's top weapons tester wrote a report detailing 60 pages of problems with the aircraft but it's essentially been ignored.
Trump has been complained about the cost of the F-35 and suggested the possibility of replacing some of the F-35 purchases with the "comparable F-18 Super Hornet." Lockheed Martin built three variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, for the Air Force, Navy, and Marines.
The lot 10 deal for the F-35 was announced last month and cut the per-plane price on the F-35A (Air Force variant) to $94.6 million, or a 7.3 percent price reduction from the previous lot 9 terms. That marked the first time the F-35A had been below $100 million.
Even so, Grazier said the F-35 price still remains "vastly more expensive" compared with legacy fighters it is replacing. "We continue to get less bang for more bucks," he said. "Whether it's fighter planes or Navy ships or anything like that, they are always vastly more complicated than the one before. We spend more and more money for these things but we get fewer and fewer of them. So we keep getting these smaller and smaller forces."