Arms Sales and Military Aid

Update – The end of the F-22?

The Senate voted this week to accept the Levin-McCain amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.  The Amendment (passed 58-40) will eliminate the $1.75B slated for the development of new F-22s, and end production after the 187 currently on order.  These planes were described as cold-war relics by Sec. Robert Gates.  R. Jeffery Smith in the Washington post finds numerous federal sources lamenting the plane’s shortcomings:

The United States’ top fighter jet, the Lockheed Martin F-22, has recently required more than 30 hours of maintenance for every hour in the skies, pushing its hourly cost of flying to more than $44,000, a far higher figure than for the warplane it replaces, confidential Pentagon test results show.

The aircraft’s radar-absorbing metallic skin is the principal cause of its maintenance troubles, with unexpected shortcomings — such as vulnerability to rain and other abrasion — challenging Air Force and contractor technicians since the mid-1990s, according to Pentagon officials, internal documents and a former engineer.

We cannot allow such spending on such a wasteful project.  However, the parts for the F-22 come from districts spread across 44 states, so the battle over the F-22 is far from over, as the funding may still be put back in the process to reconcile the House version of this bill with the Senate’s.

However, today remains a victory for peace activists who joined us in writing their representatives. It’s was also a blow to the powerful weapons lobby, in the name of smarter defense spending:

In April, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced plans to invest more defense funds in intelligence and personnel and to shift money away from big weapons systems like the F-22. And President Obama had lobbied intensely against funding the planes, threatening what would have been his first veto.

The vote count crossed party lines.  Fifteen Republican senators voted to scrap the F-22 while fifteen Democrats voted to keep the pork barrel spending in their states.  Make your representatives accountable to you and not the military contractors.

However, today peace activists can celebrate a vote that demonstrated a glimmer of accountability — something we have precious little of in defense spending.