UAV Global Hawk: the $223 Million Drone That No One Wants, But We Keep Buying

The Air Force has looked at its spending in an attempt to cut expensive programs from its budget, and it made a decision to eliminate the production of the often defective and overwhelmingly expensive $223 million drone manufactured by Northrop Grumman called the “Global Hawk.”

Despite the Pentagon's best efforts, however, this decision has been met with tough opposition from a group of Northrop lobbyists that have successfully convinced Congress to keep the “Global Hawk” in production. This serves as yet another black mark on Congress's record this year, since by keeping the Global Hawk in flight, it is effectively allowing the national deficit to soar. All the while, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has decided to reduce the number of brass and civilian workers by 20% by 2019.

Whether because of ethics, monetary concerns, or complaints about the poor manufacturing of the drone, most would agree that the “Global Hawk” spells trouble. However, agreements are hardly ever made without an incentive in place — and you can bet that a few people in the Pentagon are getting compensated for making a deal with Northrop. 

Tactfully, Northrop has been giving donations to (i.e. bribing) key officials on the House Armed Services Committee — donations that collectively amount to $941,000 — and the timing of these donations is conveniently aligned with times in which decisions were made on the Global Hawk program. 

“I've seen the Global Hawk up close, very impressive. You know, it makes you feel proud to be an American that this is the kind of stuff that we're putting out,” Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said in an attempt to make a positive case for the Global Hawk. “Nothing against the U2, but when you talk about antiquated systems versus what we've got to show the world in the future, it was just impressive.”

As one who has benefited from Northrop donations, Rooney’s enthusiasm about the Global Hawk likely is influenced by the $17,500 he has received from the company since 2009. Explaining that it makes him feel “proud to be an American” and claiming that it is “impressive” is not sufficient enough to really illustrate why this costly drone should continue to be produced. But then again, money talks, and right now, it seems to be quite the loudmouth. 

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke out against the actions of the Armed Services Committee, stating that “there’s no free lunch” and monetary resources going towards the program “will have to be offset by cuts in national security.” Certainly, some may still argue that for the sake of defense, the millions of dollars going into this drone may not be a complete waste of funds. 

However, given that the estimated national deficit for 2013 is $759 billion and considering how and why the program has still survived, it seems that this is an issue that will need to be constantly revisited and viewed much more critically. Until these bribed members of Congress put aside the prospect of compensation and see the Global Hawk for what it really is, funds will continue to be allocated to a program that is not as crucial to defense as some make it out to be.