Gates vs. the F-22, Again
In this corner: President Obama, Defense Secretary Bob Gates, (reluctantly) the service secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force, this very smart Air Force captain, Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), and the current threat environment the U.S. faces. In that corner: Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), a bunch of senators and congressmen, most of the Air Force’s old guard. The latter group may yet win the fight to keep funding for the F-22 in the defense authorization.
Gates went on the attack against Pentagon “business as usual” yesterday:
“If we can’t get this right, what on earth can we get right?” Mr. Gates said in an acerbic, sometimes withering speech to the Economic Club of Chicago. “It is time to draw the line on doing defense business as usual.” From his point of view, that means overbuying weapons for wars the nation is unlikely to fight.
Parts of the plane are built in more 40 states, so it’s no surprise that even progressive senators from Massachusetts like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry don’t want to close the production line during a massive recession. What’s noteworthy is that Lockheed Martin, the principal F-22 manufacturer, doesn’t appear to be fighting the cut so hard. Lockheed also has a huge piece of the Joint Strike Fighter, Gates’ preferred replacement (to oversimplify things a bit) for the F-22, so it makes money either way. More Gates:
[T]he F-22, designed for cold-war aerial combat, has become the poster plane for each side. Mr. Gates argued to the economic club that it was a “niche, silver-bullet solution” for only a few potential situations, specifically “the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet,” and that the cheaper F-35, which is to start production in 2012, is a more versatile fighter. The F-22’s supporters say it not only provides jobs but also ensures American dominance of the skies.
Anyway: the vote on the F-22 is expected to come soon.