David Olive writes that the F-35 fiasco is a case study in how to bungle a military purchase:
If anything’s to be gained from the monumental botch that is the costliest and most multi-functional military aircraft project ever attempted, the Joint Strike Fighter program from which the F-35 is derived should be taught at the Royal Military College and its peers worldwide. It is an epic case history of supplier over-reach on the part of defence contractors, and deficient decision-making by public policy makers.
From the beginning, the F-35 was too much airplane -- and it promised the impossible:
The folly of the F-35 – an exercise in hubris for which Napoleon’s Russian excursions are roughly analogous – is that it was to be the first fighter plane that would accommodate the varied needs of all four branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. And to make affordable an aircraft program of unprecedented cost, Lockheed would have to peddle as many F-35s to as many countries as possible.
The government did not exercise the skepticism that anyone buying a used car would apply to such a purchase. To begin with, the manufacturer did not have a good track record:
The checkered history of F-35 sponsor Lockheed Martin should have given pause to Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND). Soon after the Bethesda, Md. company was created in a controversial 1999 merger, the world’s largest defence contractor was mired in managerial chaos and culture clashes. New-product delays and cost overruns became routine with flagship projects including Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor, C-130J cargo plane, and its latest-generation satellites. In 2006, the year Ottawa formally committed to the F-35 purchase, the U.S. Army killed Lockheed’s troubled Aerial Common Sensors spy plane. And the repeated delivery delays with the F-35 have prompted the Pentagon’s chief procurement officer this year to label the F-35 “acquisition malpractice.”
And, having refused to let Parliament see the books, the Harper government simply lied about the costs:
From the time that Ottawa settled on the F-35 in July 2010, it misinformed Canadians through last year’s general election that the purchase price was $9-billion. Today the estimate, properly including decades of maintenance costs, is about $44 billion. Other likely national F-35 buyers have publicly disclosed the plane’s spiralling costs. “What distinguishes Canada has been the denials of the government,” Stephen Saideman of McGill University’s political science department wrote earlier this year.
The lesson is pretty clear. Don't believe a government which loudly insists that it is competent. It's a variation on Nixon's line, "I am not a crook!"