The multi-billion dollar production of the F-22 fighter jet presents government, taxpayers and workers with a Catch 22. Cut the program and lose jobs, revenue, security and votes. Keep it and continue the ineffective and ill-conceived priorities that have put the U.S. in a disadvantageous worldwide leadership position.
Therefore, the F-22 is a prime example of the tangled military industrial congressional complex.
The military says they need weapons and equipment to fight for U.S. freedom. (The Air Force currently wants Congress to approve a $9 billion deal to produce 60 new F-22s to increase the fleet to 243, the New York Times reports.)
Industries such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing are contracted to build the aircraft. (There also are 1,000 parts suppliers, and 25,000 employees in 44 states.)
With the wide scope of industry, nearly every member of Congress represents the F-22 production workers and the service men that will use the airplanes. The politicians will do what is necessary to keep them employed and voting for him/her at re-election time. (For example, the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth represents hundreds that fly outdated planes in Iraq. U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R.-Minn., wrote a letter this fall to Defense Undersecretary Gordon England to lobby the department to be on the list to get the newer Joint Strike Force planes, which are different than the F-22.)
“When a contractor builds a major system like the F-22, the first thing they do is low ball the initial estimate,” said Franklin Spinney, a former Air Force officer, in the tremendously-insightful book The American Way of War. “With the F-22, they said it was going to cost $30 million and weigh 50,000 pounds. The plane is now well over $300 million a copy and climbing. And it’s got all sorts of technical problems. Worst of all, it’s an air-to-air combat aircraft originally conceived to fight the Soviet Union, and today we don’t even have an enemy with an air force!”
The F-22 took 20 years of production and $65 billion until it was ready for military use in 2005. That is of little consequence to the corporations that get new contracts such as the proposed $9-billion dollar deal. The corporations line its pockets and its workers get paychecks to wire the plane’s electronics and turn its screws. They are both happy.
There are, however, critics of the project and the complex. Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, called it “next-war-itis.” President-elect Barack Obama, who is under pressure from military lobbyists to keep the F-22, has said one of his goals is to cut wasteful spending. What better target than a plane that has never flown in combat!
Cutting the F-22 project, however, would be nearly politically impossible considering the current economic recession and the ever-suffocating complex. No one is going to support the loss of jobs today.
Many knowledgeable people are familiar with the phrase the “military industrial complex,” but not the true representation of the pervasive relationship, which is properly titled the “military industrial congressional complex.” President Eisenhower coined the “military industrial complex,” but an earlier draft of his farewell address read, “military industrial congressional complex.”
“When you look at what keeps the contracts going and the policies in place,” says Joseph Cirincione, a former staffer to a few congressmen, in The American Way of War. “It’s not two links, it’s three. It’s the military, and industry, and Congress. And these together form the basis for the national security policy of the United States.”
The F-22 could get the ax, but England and others want to free up money for the Joint Strike Fighter that the 148th in Duluth and Sen. Norm Coleman want to remain viable. Their jobs rely on the complex.
It’s just gimme, gimme, gimme.