Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Stop the F-22 Now!

My three-dimensional political spectrum just got a little more bent this morning after reading about the F-22 fighter jets. President Obama has rightfully said he won't sign the military spending bill unless the $1.75 billion program to buy seven jets is removed from the bill.

Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry support the purchase. Senators Carl Levin and John McCain oppose it. Supporters want the program because of the high-paying jobs which will be retained. That sounds reasonable on the surface except for one small detail: The Pentagon doesn't really need these jets.
The Pentagon would rather buy unmanned aircraft to gather intelligence in Afghanistan and accelerate the testing for the F-35, a new plane designed to attack ground targets. Pentagon officials say the F-22 is hard to maintain and costs $44,000 to operate for an hour, compared with $30,000 for older planes.

But many Republicans in Congress say more F-22s, which were designed for aerial combat, are needed as a hedge against countries like China.

Holy shit! Let's break this down into bite-sized pieces. In an era when we desperately need to be spending money on things like infrastructure, education, reducing poverty, combating homelessness, health care, gaining energy independence and developing renewable energy sources to name but a few, we have senators pushing for a military expenditure which is unnecessary, simply to keep workers employed. (And keeping executives and stockholders of Lockheed Martin happy.)

It is this kind of disconnect which has me wondering how we'll ever get out of this hole. (We won't, but that's another issue.)

And that argument that the F-22s are a hedge against China? Please. If China wanted to bring us down, they already are well-positioned to cripple us via the economic system. However, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, believes China will potentially be a threat at some point, "particularly as it will compete directly with the United States for energy supplies."

All the more reason we should be addressing our energy needs now, not when we're over a barrel. No pun intended.

Consider as well, the costs to operate each of the F-22s: $44,000 is one American worker's annual salary for every hour the jets are in use. And that's on top of the $1.75 billion price tag which is another 38,636 such annual salaries.

While that may amount to a minuscule fraction of the jobs we've lost in the current recession, to squander that money unnecessarily is wrong-headed, misguided, and totally void of reasonable logic.

Let's jump back to the China statement for a moment, and John Murtha. And Japan's desire to buy F-22 fighter jets. But there's a slight problem: there's an export ban on the jets.
Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, said Wednesday that he intends to meet in the coming days with Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and Rep. Bill Young (Fla.), Murtha’s GOP counterpart on the Defense subcommittee, to discuss lifting the export ban on the F-22.

The key player in that briefing will be Obey, who in 1998 wrote the legislation that bans the exports of the F-22 mainly to keep secret the aircraft’s radar-evading stealth technology. Obey has not budged since, and it’s unclear whether he is willing to relent.

On the surface, it sounds like a pretty good idea if we want to keep these jobs. Allow Japan to buy the jets instead of us building them for ourselves unnecessarily. A win-win situation, right? Ummm, not so fast. In the world of politics, military, and money, things are never simple.
Murtha, who is willing to work with Inouye on facilitating the sale of the F-22 to the Japanese, admitted it is an expensive proposition that also depends on whether Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Ga., production line will stay open for several more years. That production line in turn depends on U.S. domestic orders for the plane. The Obama administration did not ask for money for the production of the fighter jet in fiscal 2010 and is adamant about halting production after the 187th airplane is delivered to the Air Force.

Murtha said that he would like to be able to purchase another 20 aircraft in 2010, but that he is uncertain whether that would be possible, considering the total price tag for those planes is $3.2 billion. Murtha also said that he is concerned about the high cost of operating and maintaining the existing planes.

Ahh, catch-22 with the F-22! We need to keep paying to keep the plant operational (i.e. churning out unneeded and expensive jets) until we can work out the details of an export to Japan, which might ultimately help with that Big Red Scare from China when they need more energy.

There are not even any guarantees at this point that this plan will even come to fruition.
For the F-22 to end up in Japan, Lockheed Martin would have to spend a considerable amount of time — several years — demilitarizing the plane. That essentially means stripping the jet of sensitive technologies employed by the U.S. military. That could be costly. By Murtha’s calculations the research and development to remove those capabilities would cost at least $1 billion and could go much higher, and it is unclear whether the Japanese would be able to pay such a steep price.

There's a lot more going on here than just "saving American jobs." I smell a big ol' stinking dead rat.

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