Lazy B's Other Problem

Cost increases and delays seem likely for its current U.S. Army project.

As Boeing continues to push for a possible rebid of the Air Force tanker project, claiming its plane is more cost-effective than that of contract winner Northrop/EADS-Airbus, Lazy B is being criticized for its own performance in the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, a possible factor in the Pentagon decision to bypass the company's tanker bid.The FCS, as planned, is to include development of new combat vehicles, unmanned air and ground vehicles, and a launch system, all operated by special combat teams, with a cost ranging from $164 billion to more than $230 billion. New defense platforms are always complicated and typically exceed projected costs, but the Government Accountability Office this month wondered if Boeing and partner Science Applications International Corp. could ever actually build the multisystem war platforms. The project is "well short of a program halfway through its development schedule and its budget," promising cost increases and delays, says the GAO.But in today's world of fewer big defense contractors and "planned overruns," Boeing can brag that at least it isn't gouging taxpayers as rival Lockheed Martin is with its stunning increases for the Pentagon's new Joint Strike Fighter (a project Boeing lost out on). Originally pegged at somewhere around $235 billion to make 2,458 jets, that cost has risen close to $300 billion. And now projected operational costs have almost doubled, to $650 billion, pushing the total project close to $1 trillion, says the GAO. The delivery date is also being pushed back two years, and fewer planes likely will be manufactured. A "major program restructure seems inevitable," adds the GAO. But, damn the taxpayer cost, by God, they'll build it!

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