|Just what the doctor ordered|
In his "needs-only basis" defence of his budget, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen had claimed, "We buy only what we need, scrutinise available options for the most cost-effective solution. Our first instinct is to upgrade existing platforms to extend their lifespan, instead of purchasing new ones." In a previous comment on the F-35 JSF, his Ministry had confirmed that the plane was “a potential candidate” to meet the air force’s “longer-term requirements for a multi-role fighter”. Do we really really need a top of the line US$68 million (basic configuration) fighter plane? The F-35 is definitely a new plane, so new that it's production schedule is still uncertain.
Although billed as a cost-effective Chevrolet of the skies, the the F-35 loomed as the Pentagon’s biggest budget-buster. Even with the deep pockets of the US of A, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is eyeing next-generation weapons, specifically the F-35, should $500 billion in automatic defense budget cuts go into effect starting in January 2013. The Pentagon will cut $1.6 billion from the program, canceling 13 jets next year, under proposals sent to Congress on Feb 13. It had initially planned to spend nearly $382 billion for development and purchases of the F-35. Italy announced it will reduce its planned order from 131 to 90 F-35s. Even orders from the U.K., the biggest partner with a stake of US$2 billion, are in flux.
Singapore's defence expenditure has been on an insatiable climb, rising this year to a humongous S$12.3 billion, constituting 24.4 per cent of the government's total expenditure for 2012, according to an AFP report. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) lists Singapore as one of 5 countries accounting for almost a third, 30 percent, of the volume of international arms imports - India (11 percent), South Korea (6 percent ), China and Pakistan (both 5 percent), and Singapore (4 percent). Yes, Singapore (pop. 4.6 million, land area 693 sq km) is spending almost as much as China (pop. 1,330 million, land area 9,596,960 sq km).
The US has a "super committee" – officially called the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSCDR) – to decide the fate of the costly fighter jet. Thanks to the mandate given by 60.1 %, we have one ex-surgeon with a blank check and a shopping list to delight a kid at a candy store.