Thursday, July 16, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
The F-22 Raptor fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin are responsible for 25,000 manufacturing jobs throughout the country, which is one reason why the program has the vigorous support of many members of Congress.
There’s just one problem. The Defense Department says it doesn’t need seven new jets that would cost a combined $1.75 billion, an expenditure contained in a proposed military spending bill before the Senate. The Pentagon says the 187 jets funded by Congress are enough.
That doesn’t seem to bother several senators who continue to support the new F-22s. Yet it is that way of thinking that has led to a chronically bloated U.S. military-industrial complex, one in which billions of taxpayer dollars have been squandered on weapons that no longer fit the needs of our armed forces.
That is why we would encourage President Barack Obama to follow through on his threat to veto the spending bill if the unnecessary F-22s are included. Obama reiterated that threat Monday in a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, and the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, both of whom support the president’s position. Both senators were on the losing end of a 13-11 committee vote to fund the seven jets.
As reported Tuesday by The New York Times, the Pentagon would rather spend the money on intelligence-gathering unmanned aircraft for use in Afghanistan and for testing aircraft designed to attack ground targets.
It’s tough to persuade members of Congress to accept possible job cuts in their districts, particularly in this slumping economy. But it’s far worse to waste money on one type of military aircraft or weapon when others would be of more use to soldiers in the field.
Afghanistan, in particular, demands specialized intelligence-gathering and firepower capabilities because of its challenging landscape.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has the right idea by attempting to shed the military of certain conventional weapons that are outdated or overstocked. He recognizes that modern warfare requires new battlefield technology. We hope Congress comes to the same realization.