The Pentagon is fond of using numbers to justify its program, budget and personnel decisions.
But despite many thousands of hours of analysis and binders of data, the math associated with at least one controversial decision doesn’t add up.
After the Pentagon decided to kill its entire U-2 spy plane fleet and replace it with the Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft, the Air Force was forced to argue in favor of a decision that it actually disagreed with, since two years ago it had argued to do the opposite.
DoD says canceling the U-2 will save $2.2 billion over five years.
But fitting the Global Hawk with the U-2’s sensors will cost about $1.8 billion. So the savings is really only $430 million — still real money but a fraction of the stated savings.
And even then, the improved Global Hawk will still fall short of matching the U-2’s high-fidelity capabilities demanded by US commanders.
The Global Hawk is a great multimission aircraft with enormous range, but it wasn’t designed to replace the U-2, which flies higher, faster and carries a larger and more flexible payload.
Saving a little to get a lot less capability is no bargain, and Congress must step in and stop the Pentagon from making the wrong decision.