Political Scientist Dominic Tierney Asks: Can Tom Cruise Save the Weapon that Costs More than Australia?

The Atlantic: Can Tom Cruise Save the Weapon that Costs More than Australia?

By Dominic Tierney, associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College

March 23, 2012

Only one man can rehabilitate the tarnished image of the F-35 warplane, and he goes by the name of Maverick.

The F-35 is the most expensive weapons program in history with projected lifetime costs of one trillion dollars--or more than Australia's entire GDP. The program has been plagued by so many cost overruns and delays that the Economist warned of a possible "death spiral."

For budget hawks, the F-35 program is a target rich environment. The 2010 bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission on deficit reduction suggested halving the number of F-35s for the Air Force and Navy and replacing them with F-16s and F-18s, which would save close to $30 billion from 2011 to 2015...

But the military-industrial complex has an ace card ready. Tom Burbage, the F-35 program manager at Lockheed Martin, recently revealed that Tom Cruise has signed up to play Maverick in the sequel to Top Gun--and this time, he'll be a test pilot for the F-35.

The original Top Gun, released in 1986, proved to be effective propaganda for the Navy. After the movie came out, the number of enlistees that wanted to be naval aviators spiked by 500 percent...

The F-35 is a throwback in a still more fundamental way. The future of air warfare lies with unmanned drones, which are cheaper and can fly longer. The F-35 will probably be the last manned strike fighter the United States ever builds.

To rehabilitate the image of the F-35, Cruise will have to hit the afterburners. This plane has lost that loving feeling.


Tierney also spoke earlier this month about the Occupy Movement in:

The Guardian: Occupy promises upsurge as activists prepare for 'summer of discontent'

April 6, 2012

Zuccotti Park was busy last week. Basking in bright sunshine, construction workers from the nearby Ground Zero building site ate sandwiches on its benches, tourists snapped photos and people in suits strode through on the way to Wall Street.

But the only sign that the small downtown Manhattan square had last year been the centre of a global protest movement that electrified American politics were a trio of police officers who stood watch over the milling lunchtime crowds...

Some observers say that they have seen the movement start to fade from public consciousness as something new and turn into something that looks more like a conventional set of protest causes. "Occupy Wall Street could be a chapter in American history or it could be a footnote. It does seem it is going down the path towards footnote," said Dominic Tierney, a political scientist at Swarthmore College.

That sort of analysis angers many Occupy supporters. They defend the organisation's leaderless structure and argue that it has been the most successful left-leaning protest movement in recent American history in terms of getting people to talk about issues previously considered outside the mainstream...