With F-22 on Endangered List, a Signal for Progressives?
July 21, 2009 - 9:11pm ET
Facing a stern veto threat from President Obama, the Senate voted to strip funding for the F-22 Raptor jet on Tuesday. The contentious vote came after the House authorized F-22 funding, and amid weeks of pushback between Administration officials and members of Congress – the former looking to rein in wasteful defense spending, the latter backed by the defense lobby. Although I caution against proclaiming the F-22 dead just yet– the bill heads for reconciliation later this year – its potential demise may bode well for progressives to push harder for future Pentagon reform.
The F-22 jet labeled by experts as an “expensive weapon in search of a mission” has never seen the battlefield. Designed for a Soviet threat that no longer exists, the F-22 has been stuck in continuous, costly modernizations in preparation for “the next fight.” To date the F-22 program has cost over $65 billion, with a single F-22 costing $350 million. The jet’s latest modernization program alone faces cost overruns of over 200 percent, worth billions.
It has a dismal performance record. For every hour in the sky, the plane requires more than thirty hours of maintenance, placing its hourly cost to fly at more than $44,000 – far higher than any other warplane it replaces. The Undersecretary of Pentagon Acquisitions even stated that its mission capable rate is “troubling.”
Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, too voiced strong opposition to the F-22, but his recent comment on why the cut was necessary is most striking:
“Every defense dollar diverted to fund excess or unneeded capacity – whether for more F-22s or anything else – is a dollar that will be unavailable to take care of our people, to win the wars we are in, to deter potential adversaries, and to improve capabilities in areas where America is underinvested and potentially vulnerable... If we can’t get this right – what on earth can we get right? It is time to draw the line on doing Defense business as usual.”
It may be a stretch to call Gates’ statement progressive, but it does mark a fundamental shift in the direction of the Pentagon. This is why progressives should build on this momentum and continue calling for future cuts to wasteful defense programs– that certainly are abundant. Faced with collapsing infrastructure, failing schools and a broken health care system, progressives know that we no longer can afford to put off these priorities, while writing a blank check to the military industrial complex. What is the value of maintaining the strongest military in the world if we are defending an empty shell?
To be sure, cuts to the F-22 are small compared to the gargantuan Pentagon budget, but the amount is not miniscule. To grasp perspective, here is an idea of what we could achieve by redirecting just the F-22’s $1.5 billion:
- Provide 280,400 students the maximum Pell Grant (at $5,350) for the upcoming school year.
- Hire over 31,500 new teachers.
- Deploy an extra 630 police officers to each state nationwide.
- Nearly double bus transit investment.
Help us spread the word about these important stories...
Email to a friend
Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future