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Waste of the Day: Throwback Thursday: Pentagon Cancels $150 Million Blimp Program



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Topline: In 2008, Congress went against the Pentagon’s wishes and forced it to buy a surveillance blimp the military didn’t even want.

And the blimp wouldn’t even fly

The project ended up costing at least $151.7 million, or $221.4 million in 2024 dollars, and was canceled in 2011 because the blimp couldn’t even fly.

That’s according to the “Wastebook” reporting published by the late U.S. Senator Dr. Tom Coburn. For years, these reports shined a white-hot spotlight on federal frauds and taxpayer abuses.

Coburn, the legendary U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, earned the nickname “Dr. No” by stopping thousands of pork-barrel projects using the Senate rules. Projects that he couldn’t stop, Coburn included in his oversight reports.

Coburn’s Wastebook 2008 included 65 examples of outrageous spending worth more than $1.3 billion, including the money for the Pentagon’s blimp.

Waste of the Day: Throwback Thursday: Pentagon Cancels $150 Million Blimp Program
Waste of the Day 7.4.24 by Open the Books

Key facts: The High Altitude Airship was designed to be 25 times larger than the Goodyear blimp and fly 12 miles above the ground on spy missions. The Missile Defense Agency gave Lockheed Martin $149.2 million in 2006 to build 10 airships.

Attitudes quickly changed once officials realized the blimps would take too long to build and have limited functionality, and the Pentagon tried to scrap the project even though the money had been spent.

Lockheed Martin still wanted more cash. The company turned to Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Tim Ryan, two Democrats representing Ohio at the time, and convinced them to earmark $2.5 million for a blimp facility in their state.

The test flight failed

The blimp was on its way to being built over the Pentagon’s objections – if it could actually fly. The project was defunded when a test flight failed in 2009 and folded into the similar HALE-D program, which failed its own test flight in 2011.

Background: The High Altitude Airship is not a unique example of forced spending. Every year, Congress requires the Pentagon to sustain projects not in its budget request, taking funding from things the military actually needs.

In 2023, Congress removed $17.2 billion from the DOD’s budget request and replaced it with an estimated $61 billion of lawmakers’ own pet projects, according to budget documents reviewed by OpenTheBooks.


Lockheed Martin surely has no complaints about U.S. defense spending. OpenTheBooks found that the company received over $257 billion between 2019 and 2023 – 7% of the Pentagon’s entire budget.

Search all federal, state and local government salaries and vendor spending with the AI search bot, Benjamin, at

Summary: $150 million gone. No blimps, nor any desire to even use the blimps. That’s as bad as it gets.

The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at

This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.

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Adam Andrzejewski (say: Angie-eff-ski) is the CEO/founder of Before dedicating his life to public service, Adam co-founded HomePages Directories, a $20 million publishing company (1997-2007). His works have been featured on the BBC, Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, C-SPAN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, FOX News, CNN, National Public Radio (NPR), Forbes, Newsweek, and many other national media.

Today, is the largest private repository of U.S. public-sector spending. Mission: post "every dime, online, in real time." In 2022, captured nearly all public expenditures in the country, including nearly all disclosed federal government spending; 50 of 50 state checkbooks; and 25 million public employee salary and pension records from 50,000 public bodies across America.

The group's aggressive transparency and forensic auditing of government spending has led to the assembly of grand juries, indictments, and successful prosecutions; congressional briefings, hearings, and subpoenas; Government Accountability Office (GAO) audits; Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports; federal legislation; and much more.

Our Honorary Chairman - In Memoriam is U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, MD.

Andrzejewski's federal oversight work was included in the President's Budget To Congress FY2021. The budget cited his organization by name, bullet-pointed their findings, and footnoted/hyperlinked to their report.

Posted on YouTube, Andrzejewski's presentation, The Depth of the Swamp, at the Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar 2020 in Naples, Florida received 3.8 million views.

Andrzejewski has spoken at the Columbia School of Journalism, Harvard Law School and the law schools at Georgetown and George Washington regarding big data journalism. As a senior policy contributor at Forbes, Adam had nearly 20 million pageviews on 206 published investigations. In 2022, investigative fact-finding on Dr. Fauci's finances led to his cancellation at Forbes.

In 2022, Andrzejewski did 473 live television and radio interviews across broadcast, major cable platforms, and radio shows. Andrzejewski is the author of The Waste of the Day column at Real Clear Policy. The column is syndicated by Sinclair Broadcast Group, owners of nearly 200 ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates across USA.

Andrzejewski lives in Hinsdale, Illinois with his wife Kerry and three daughters. He is a lector at St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church and has finished the Chicago Marathon eight times (PR 3:58.49 in 2022).


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