The US Department of Defense has spent $US66 billion since 2002 rebuilding Afghanistan. But it can't account for $US45 billion of that money. That's billion with a B.
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Drones are expensive. Aircraft like General Atomics's MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper cost millions of dollars piece, while the cost of maintaining the fleet stretches into the high tens of billions dollars over their lifespans. The Pentagon's internal watchdog is aware of this, and recently lambasted the Air Force for not justifying the purchase of 46 Reapers — potentially wasting $US8.8 billion of taxpayers' money.
Last year, Australia dramatically boosted its order of the still-in-development, problem-prone F-35 stealth fighter. Now a new report says the jet's 25mm cannon won't be operational until 2019 at the earliest. Even more laughable is that it probably doesn't even need the gun to begin with.
An estimated 174,000 civilians have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Who knows how many of these casualties could have been prevented if the United States and its allies were using deadly weapons, especially in dense urban areas. So it's great news that the Pentagon has developed a non-lethal mortar round.
The average pedestrian walks around with more sophisticated navigation and communication technology in his pocket than soldiers have on the battlefield. That's why the military is working hard on developing a battle-ready smartphone that would bring our troops up to speed. According to the soldiers who've tested the Pentagon's prototypes, the tech can't come soon enough.
When I recently set out for the Pentagon's R&D department, I instead found myself in front of a downtrodden shopping mall in Arlington, Virginia. I'd been navigating the old-fashioned way — with my eyes — but when I pulled out my smartphone there it was, clearly marked in the Google Maps app: DARPA.
Outdated technology and government wastefulness seem to go hand in hand, but this time the two are combining for a startlingly huge money sink: the Pentagon is planning on destroying $US1.2 billion in excess bullets and missiles, some of which could still be used by troops. And it's all because the military has no way of tracking its stockpiled ammo.
The C-27J Spartan is a hell of a plane. Famous for its ability to take off from unfinished runways, it's a staple used by militaries around the world, including the United States. At least it was until recently. The US Air Force is sending its latest batch of beautiful, brand new C-27Js straight to the boneyard in Arizona's desert.
Google's purchase of bonkers robotics company Boston Dynamics in December prompted lots of hand-wringing: owning a Department of Defence supplier doesn't jive with many people's concept of "don't be evil". At the time, Google said it wasn't interested in becoming a military contractor, and today's rumour seems to confirm that: according to PopSci, Google is withdrawing its team from the DARPA Robotics Challenge.
We all know by now that 3D printing is the future of manufacturing — even the US President says so. The march of progress doesn't always move as quickly as we'd like, however, especially when the military-industrial complex is involved. While 3D printing machines are becoming steadily cheaper and the possibilities incredibly sophisticated, the disparate branches of the US armed forces tend to move slowly, weighed down by procedure and convention. However, there's plenty of evidence to believe that's changing when 3D printing is concerned.
Down some spookily-lit corridor at the Pentagon, there are surely soldiers dreaming about the future of warfare. But, at the National Defence University, some of the nation's top brass are actually playing out the scenarios. In fact, a group of generals just finished a rather innovative year-long wargame.
Sometimes, throwing money at problems works. As the Pentagon continues to struggle with cybersecurity, its sci-fi-like R&D department, DARPA, is ready to start writing cheques. The agency just announced a competition to build a "fully automated cyber defence system". The grand prize? $US2 million.
It's not news that the Pentagon's fated F-35 program is riddled with dilemmas. For more than a decade, it's bumped into roadblock after roadblock. When the planes aren't grounded, they're forbidden to fly in bad weather, combat missions or at night. Vanity Fair just published a lengthy look at just how bad a mess it is.
News emerged this week that the U.S. Army, which has been collecting biometric data of locals in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, is going to start storing that data in the cloud. Put simply, biometrics is the collection of personal, physical data using devices like retina scanners, and no matter what way you spin the situation, it's a potentially pretty creepy practice.
Just a few weeks after US President Obama announced plans to scale back the country's drone program, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA) announced plans to roll out a program for the rapid development and manufacture of sensors to help power unmanned aerial, land and underwater vehicles. The specific technology, the defence Department says, will come from a manufacturing processor "similar to that of the commercial smartphone industry".