Their efforts appear to be paying off. 200 members of the House and 44 members of the Senate have signed letters to President Obama urging him to extend the $62 billion F-22 Raptor program. Currently, the Air Force has funds to purchase 183 of the stealth aircraft, “but the letter says, ‘We are convinced that this number is insufficient to meet potential threats.'” The members write further that the jobs at stake make the program, as Matthew Yglesias recently paraphrased, “too big to fail”:
The F-22 program annually provides over $12 billion of economic activity to the national economy. … If this certification is not provided, layoffs will begin as this critical supplier base shuts down. … Over 25,000 Americans work for the 1,000+ suppliers in 44 states that manufacture the F-22. Moreover, it is estimated that another 70,000 additional Americans indirectly owe their jobs to this program.
Despite the Congressional appeals, continuing the F-22 program is not in the interest of U.S. national security. The Pentagon recently announced that they would need $8 billion to upgrade 100 F-22’s which are already in use. The aircraft is “proving very expensive to operate .. and it is complex to maintain,” the Pentagon explained. The aircraft’s readiness rate fell to 62 percent last year, which the Pentagon called “unsatisfactory.” Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Larry Korb summarized the arguments against the F-22 in a column in 2005:
The F/A-22 Raptor is the most unnecessary weapon system being built by the Pentagon. In fact, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld tried to do away with it in the summer of 2002 but backed off when his Air Force secretary threatened to resign over the issue. It was originally designed to achieve air superiority over Soviet fighter jets, which will never be built. … Over the last 20 years, the cost of the total program has continued to grow even as the number of planes to be purchased has declined.
If members of Congress are truly concerned with preserving American jobs, they should look elsewhere. Indeed, committing further funds to the F-22 program would divert scarce government dollars away from more economically beneficial forms of government spending.
As the Center for Economic and Policy Research found in 2007, “increased levels of military spending leads to fewer jobs and slower economic growth.” CEPR’s Dean Baker explained, “most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.”
Matthew Yglesias comments, “One good thing about a McCain presidency would have been that a former naval aviator in the White House would have been the deadliest foe ever faced by the U.S. Air Force and its various boondoggles.”