Senate does the right thing on F-22s

SENATE DOES THE RIGHT THING ON F-22S…. President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the current Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff all told Congress not to spend an additional $1.75 billion on F-22 fighter jets the Pentagon neither wants nor needs. For quite a while, it appeared lawmakers were going to spend the money anyway, even in the face of a presidential veto threat.

To their credit, the Senate backed down this afternoon, and agreed with the administration.

The Senate voted Tuesday to kill the nation’s premier fighter jet program, embracing by a 58-40 vote margin the argument of President Obama and his top military advisers that the F22 is no longer needed for the nation’s defense and a costly drag on the Pentagon’s budget in an era of small wars and growing counter-insurgency efforts.

The decision was a key policy victory for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has been campaigning against the plane since April as a centerpiece of his effort to “fundamentally reshape the priorities of America’s defense establishment and reform the way the Pentagon does business — in particular, the weapons we buy, and how we buy them,” as he put it in a Chicago speech last Thursday.

The 58-40 vote came in support of an amendment to remove funding from a larger defense spending bill for the planes. The overall bill is now expected to pass, and while the House bill included some funding for unnecessary F-22s, the final measure is now expected to head to the president’s desk without the wasteful spending.

The truth is, it never should have gotten this far in the first place. Lawmakers, lobbyists, and the “military industrial complex” had just become accustomed to spending excess funds on unneeded and unnecessary defense projects. Gates, to his credit, has said it’s time to fix the system, and the White House not only decided to press its commitment to change on this F-22 issue, it drew a line in the sand and told Congress not to cross it.

It’s a win for Obama and Gates, but just as important, it’s a win for military priorities, fiscal discipline, and changing how the system operates.

Also, take a look at the roll call on this one. Most Senate votes offer a clear partisan pattern. On this vote, there were 58 senators in the majority — 43 from the Democratic caucus and 15 from the GOP caucus.

There’s some of that bipartisanship the establishment has been waiting for.