By Fareed Zakaria
Republicans worry a great deal about dysfunction in government. They launch investigations to find out why a few hundred million dollars were wasted and insist that departments do more with less. Except for the largest government bureaucracy in the world, the Defense Department, which spends about $600 billion a year — more than the entire GDP of Poland — and employs 1.4 million men and women in uniform, 700,000 civilians and 700,000 full-time contractors. The Pentagon’s accounts are so vast and byzantine that it is probably impossible to do a thorough audit of them.
Still, a recent Government Accountability Office report made a valiant effort, concluding that the total budget overruns for current weapons systems stands at nearly $500 billion. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program alone is now around $160 billion over budget. In other words, the cost overruns on one weapons system are more than the total defense budgets of Britain and France combined. A new presidential helicopter fleet was scrapped after the cost for a single chopper neared that of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. And on and on.