The Biggest Military Wastes of Money  

Mike Rothschild
809.5k views 16 items

The staggering amount of money available to the US Armed Forces has resulted in wasteful military spending on a grand scale and some of the worst military spending in history. As technology changes and improves, new designs in tanks, planes, weapons, and vehicles have to be developed - all of which cost huge amounts. But the military is plagued by bureaucratic inefficiency, redundancy, procurement issues, changing priorities, and a process that simply takes too long.

As a result, the last 30 years are littered with futuristic, pointless military projects that never saw a day of action. Lasers, stealth ships, high-tech tanks and guns, communications systems, even uniforms - all have been developed at massive costs, and done little to nothing to keep the nation or its armed forces safe. The most egregious, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, might top out at $1.5 trillion - more than the GDP of all but 11 countries on earth - and it's never fired a shot.

Rampant military spending isn't a new phenomenon, as numerous European countries during after World War II wasted staggering sums on defenses that provided no defense. But when it comes to wasting money, nobody can beat the US from the Cold War until now. Here are the most egregious examples of military spending gone haywire, from WWII until today.
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MX Missile - $25 Billion
MX Missile - $25 Billion is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Biggest Military Wastes of Money
Photo: Pinterest/Fair Use

A 1970s nuclear deterrent, the LGM-118 (or MX Missile, as the program was usually called) was a land-based ICBM that could carry up to 10 re-entry vehicles, each armed with a 300-kiloton W87 warhead. It could deliver a devastating strike to the Soviet Union that could essentially win a nuclear war in one blow. The program was cancelled and restarted several times due to issues with housing the missiles, before President Reagan approved their deployment in hardened silos. 

The program suffered massive delays and cost overruns, and the missiles themselves were hard to maintain and expensive to build. The MX ended up costing over $25 billion to make just 114 missiles. The last were taken out of service in 2003 - and the Cold War they were meant to win lasted just a few years after they were deployed.
Project Nike - $20 Billion
Project Nike - $20 Billion is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Biggest Military Wastes of Money
Photo: Pinterest/Fair Use

Cold War paranoia over waves of Soviet bombers blasting the US into nuclear oblivion led to a staggering engineering and military project, code-named Nike. It was a plan to build anti-aircraft missile batteries all over the country, concentrating on cities, military targets, and industrial bases. The missiles were placed in batteries of two or three, with corresponding radars, barracks, underground storage bunkers, elevators, and maintenance facilities.

Nike Ajax Missiles were replaced by Nike Hercules Missiles, which were replaced by Nike Zeus missiles. All the while, the Soviet Union was phasing bombers out, making the missiles useless. Nike was ended in the mid 70s, and no missile was ever fired at an enemy. The cost of the program was enormous, at least $20 billion, and probably much more. Nike sites today mostly sit abandoned, with many of them posing severe environmental hazards.
Future Combat System - $19 Billion
Future Combat System - $19 Bil... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Biggest Military Wastes of Money
Photo: The U.S. Army/Flickr
Work began on the Future Combat System in 1999, with the intention of building an integrated set of manned and unmanned combat vehicles that would dominate the 21st century battlefield. Then the September 11th attacks happened, and military priorities changed completely, requiring a redesign of the FCS. Ballooning costs, technical problems, and the budgetary drain of the Iraq War sent the bill for the program sky high. When it was finally cancelled in 2009, $19 billion had been spent - and just eight prototype vehicles were built.
Airbus A400M Atlas is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Biggest Military Wastes of Money
Photo: Metaweb (FB)/CC-BY

The A400M was meant to replace the variety of aging transports in Europe's air forces. Instead, it was plagued with delays, technical issues, and a bloated budget. The plane was delayed so badly that England, France, and Germany all had to explore buying or leasing existing cargo planes from the US. It was nearly scrapped several times, and Britain's Minister for Defense Procurement declared "The A400M is a complete, absolute wanking disaster, and we should be ashamed of ourselves. I have never seen such a waste of public funds in the defense field in the past 40 years."

The first Atlas finally entered service in 2013 - and was grounded when one of the 11 built planes crashed. The program has already cost at least $10 billion.
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