The Senate killed the F-22 fighter jet yesterday– voting 58-40 (in a bipartisan vote, too) to halt production on the planes. We already have 187 of them, and they cost billions of dollars to manufacture. Back in April, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for production to be stopped, and he recently pointed out that “two very different presidents, two different secretaries of defense, two chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the current Air Force secretary and chief of staff” agreed with him. Why, then, was this such a big deal?
Opponents to the cuts claimed that “the F-22 is needed because only it can shoot down enemy cruise missiles fired at U.S. cities.” But no such attack has even been threatened since the Cold War ended, and Time Magazine tells us that “No F-22s have flown over Afghanistan or Iraq.” They’re just not useful in today’s wars.
We know the real reason some Senators fought so hard to keep these planes alive. The planes are manufactured in 46 states, and it was Senators from those states most involved in the manufacturing process– Connecticut, Georgia– who led the charge to save them.
Yes, it is important to keep manufacturing jobs. But that’s not what our defense budget is for. Gates tells us:
“The grim reality is that with regard to the budget we have entered a zero-sum game. 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.”
For a change, common sense prevailed in the Senate. Think they can keep it up?