Playing games on F-22s

PLAYING GAMES ON F-22S…. Finally, a wide variety of Senate Democrats and Republicans can agree on something — leaders on both sides of the aisle want to waste $1.75 billion F-22 fighter jets that the Pentagon doesn’t want, doesn’t need, and hasn’t asked for. The NYT has a good editorial on the subject today.

The plane, the most expensive jet fighter ever built, was designed for cold war aerial combat. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has repeatedly argued that the Pentagon needs to phase out such high-cost, outdated programs so it can buy the kinds of weapons that American troops desperately need to complete their mission in Iraq and defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The F-22 has not been used in either war. Buying more would only make it harder for the Air Force to shift money into aircraft like unmanned intelligence drones and the more adaptable, cheaper-to-fly F-35 fighter, which is set to begin production in 2012.

The F-22’s main contractor, Lockheed Martin, and its multiple subcontracting suppliers, have spread its 25,000 jobs across 44 states. And a majority of the members of the Armed Services Committee proved unable to resist that lure. Senator Chambliss, whose state is home to Lockheed Martin’s primary manufacturing plant for the F-22, sponsored the committee amendment adding the seven planes, which was approved by a 13-to-11 vote. Senator Kerry, who is not on the committee, has since said that he also supports the purchase.

President Obama is right to stand up for the nation’s military priorities and sound fiscal discipline in threatening to veto next year’s military spending bill if the extra F-22s remain.

Keep in mind, there’s no talk of scrapping the F-22 program altogether; the military will still have 187 of the jets. The administration just wants to cap the number, save some money, and make more effective use of military resources. A wide variety of lawmakers — you know, the ones who are always talking about wasteful and irresponsible spending and railing against waste in government — want to spend the money anyway.

Complicating matters, there’s some talk that the Senate may include hate crimes legislation, which the administration supports, in the spending bill. That way, the thinking goes, Obama may accept the wasteful spending because he wants the hate crimes measure to become law.

In effect, it would be a trade — lawmakers get the F-22 pork they want over Obama’s objections, and the president would get the hate crimes bill. That senators would go to these lengths just to waste $1.75 billion on unnecessary fighter jets is kind of sad.