What Does $1 Billion Look Like?

We hear the word “billion” a lot, especially in relation to “dollars.”

But what does one billion dollars look like?money_02

To get some perspective:

  • If you had $1 billion, you could spend $5,000 a day for more than 500 years before you ran out of money.
  • If you put $1 billion $1 bills in a stack, your pile would measure 67.9 miles high.
  • One billion $1 bills would weigh around 10 tons.

Now that we have some perspective on $1 billion being a lot, let’s see some recent figures on how we’re spending billions every year:

  • Americans spend more than $72.5 billion on their pets.
  • Americans spend more than $72 billion playing the lottery.
  • Americans spend more than $18.5 billion on bottled water.
  • Americans spend more than $165 billion on uneaten food.
  • Americans spend more than $1 billion on fireworks.
  • Americans spend more than $11.5 billion in litter clean-up.

Americans also spend billions on something we don’t think about much, if at all.

Here’s what $1 billion also looks like:


This is a B-2 Spirit, which was in the news recently because the Air Force held a commemorative event for the 30th anniversary of the B-2’s first flight:

B-2 anniversary

I didn’t know the Air Force celebrated airplanes’ anniversaries, and I think that’s so sweet.

I wish I’d been invited – doesn’t this look like Party Central?

B-2 anniversary_03.jpg

Especially since, as the Los Angeles Times noted,

“Behind the gathered crowd, a construction crew used equipment to move mounds of dirt into a dump truck.”

Whoa!  Party Hearty!

Leading the celebration was Major General James Dawkins, 8th Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center Commander:

B-2 anniversary_02

Dawkins lauded the capabilities of the B-2, though as far as I can ascertain, he didn’t mention that when the Air Force bought 21 of these starting in 1998, they cost $1 billion each.

That was in 1998 dollars.  Today, $1.5 billion each.

But rather than go on buying the same old, same old thing, the Pentagon has announced it plans to replace the B-2 Spirit with the new and improved B-21 Raider:

B-21 rendering

Or rather, Raiders, plural, since we taxpayers are buying 100 of them.

For at least $80 billion.

Remember that “One billion $1 bills would weigh around 10 tons”?

That’s at least 800 tons of $1 bills.

Now, the Air Force is very hush-hush about what they – I mean, we – are going to actually pay for each B-21, or when it’s actually going to fly.

First, the cost.

 Defense News said this, in 2018:

Defense News (2)

The article goes on to say,

The case for greater public disclosure of B-21 costs is strengthened by the fact that Northrop Grumman’s winning contract bid was lower than the Pentagon’s estimate, raising concerns that it was unrealistic.  It would not be the first time that a contractor has underbid to win a contract, only to ask for more money after they won.

Moreover, the Defense Department has a long history of underestimating how much its major aircraft acquisition programs will cost.  In the 1980s, the B-2 bomber program overran its cost so badly that a mere 20 aircraft emerged from a $40 billion program intended to buy 135 to 150 aircraft.  The service also deeply underestimated the unit cost of the F-22 and F-35 aircraft.

Major General James “Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell-The-Price” Dawkins.

Back in 2017 Defense News said,

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the contract value of the B-21 Raider to be revealed…it will be “some time” before the service divulges more cost information, the Air Force undersecretary said on October 12.

Let’s see…October 2017 to now.

I’d say that’s “some time,” and then some.

Even further back – in 2016 – the late Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, demanded the Air Force release the value of the B-21 bomber development contract.

McCain’s letter said, in part:

“This is a critical program for our nation’s defense, and the American people deserve to know how many of their hard-earned tax dollars will be spent in these initial phases as we embark on a major defense program expected to exceed $100 billion in total.”

The Air Force didn’t tell McCain.

Official Air Force BIO Portrait
General Stephen “Don’t-Hold-Me-To-It” Wilson.

And if the Air Force wouldn’t tell McCain, I reckon they won’t tell us, either.

And as for the when the B-21 will fly, again according to the Los Angeles Times, the “B-21 could fly for the first time in 2021 and is expected to enter service in the 2020s.”

“Could.”  “Is expected.”

If that isn’t vague enough, back in July U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General Stephen Wilson said there were around 863 days left before the first flight, which gives a December 2021 date.

But, said Wilson, “Don’t hold me to it.”

Vague, vaguer, vaguest.

We don’t know how much, or when, or even what the B-21 will look like – all we have is an artist rendering.  Here are the B-2 and its successor, the B-21:

B-2 spirit smaller B-21 raider

Seriously, how do you tell the difference?

Should we tell them to get vanity license plates?

License Plate (2)

That would help – and I can offer a suggestion on helping to pay for those new B-21s.

When the contractor comes back to the Pentagon to ask for more money – and we know they will – this time, instead of nailing us taxpayers for it, the Pentagon could get creative and borrow an idea from this entrepreneur:

Put logo on plane (2)

For just $5, this artist will “Place your logo or any other type of image on the wings of a warplane…Also included are two lines of text (or more but smaller size).  For example, website address, slogan, call to action…anything.”

Imagine this, but with the new B-21 Raider.

If it ever flies.

The artist adds your info to the video along with background music, and you get this:

German Gal

Imagine the thrill!

Granted, at $5 a pop the Pentagon will have to sell a lot of these, but I know a great way for them to get started:

Chosen Final (2)

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