The F-22 Vote: What Are America’s Spending Priorities?

Posted on July 27, 2009. Filed under: F-22, Uncategorized |


With some of its most powerful backers losing their resolve to continue the fight for the F-22 Raptor, questions remain about the administration’s funding priorities.

The administration won a Capitol Hill victory last week when the Senate voted to accept Defense Secretary Robert Gates plans to stop production of the radar-evading aircraft after 187 planes have been completed.

The saving: $1.75 billion. At the same time, however, the Pentagon said it planned to spend $1 billion on a new media outreach program.

Gates and Obama said the cut is a concession to budget constraints, but this comes just months after the administration championed a $787 billion stimulus package to create jobs and rescue the economy. Cutting the F-22 program is expected to result in the loss of 25,000 direct and 75,000 indirect jobs across America.

This makes no sense. When Obama vowed to end “business as usual,” did he actually mean he wanted to bring an end to business, period?

Then there’s the political capitol the President had to expend to win in the Senate, including the first veto threat of his presidency (which, by the way, Gates reiterated on the eve of the vote). Not only did the administration plan anger members of Congress whose districts will lose irreplaceable jobs, Obama also ignored pleas from some of his core constituencies, including the AFL-CIO, the Steelworkers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The IAM vowed to continue the dog fight.

“Ending the F-22 will result in immediate layoffs in the supplier base and begin the costly dismantling of a vital part of our defense industrial base — at a time when our nation is facing the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression and unemployment continues to rise month after month,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger.

Gates said the Pentagon doesn’t need any more F-22s, which were designed as a successor to the F-15A and are the world’s most advanced fighter jets. They are faster, can fly higher, and have better stealth capabilities than any other fighter.

The administration’s plan came despite repeated statements from the Air Force that ending the program at 187 planes would threaten U.S. air dominance. There were several high ranking voices inside the Pentagon who said they believe cutting the program would be foolhardy.

The measure moves now to a House-Senate conference where conferees will decide if the Senate language to strip funding for the planes will win out over the House version of the bill that would invest $369 million next year on parts to build 12 more F-22s.

What will happen in conference is unclear, but Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, said he has given up hope for the F-22 in the wake of the Senate 58-40 vote. “That ended the debate,” Murtha said.

Still with so many jobs at stake, that may not be true.

As the Chicago Tribune said in an editorial, the F-22 “has subcontractors in 44 states — giving innumerable members of Congress an incentive to keep the dollars coming. So even though the administration won this vote, we would be surprised if it’s the last word.”

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