As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Battle Over The F-22

One area where President Obama deserves some praise is his stand on the F-22, at odds with parochial interests in Congress and even splitting some senior Democrats:

Democratic leaders support an amendment that would strip the $1.75 billion for seven additional jets from the 2010 defense authorization bill, which is being debated on the Senate floor this week.

But several senior Democrats are from states that will see gains from building more F-22s.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who represents the state where Pratt & Whitney builds the F-22 engine, told The Hill he was working with his Democratic colleagues to convince them to support the purchase of more jets despite the president’s opposition. Dodd also faces a tough reelection campaign next year.

Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, will be a key vote to watch. The watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, which supports removing the F-22 funds, lists Schumer as poised to vote against stripping the money.

Schumer declined to say how he was voting, telling The Hill he is still studying the issue, and advised: “Watch the vote.”

Sen. Levin withdrew the amendment temporarily today so the Senate could take up the hate crimes bill. Sounds to me like Levin feared he didn't have the votes.

Matt Duss lays out what this is really about.

So just to be clear, this argument over the F-22, at least as it’s occurring in Congress, not really a debate over defending the country — it’s a test of whether the requirements of electoral politics can outweigh the requirements of American national security as defined by the Department of Defense. This isn’t to suggest that Congress has no role in determining American defense requirements — of course it does, but let’s not pretend that seven extra planes is the difference between air dominance and ceding the skies.

Meanwhile, Mike Goldfarb observes that “one thing that’s been consistent throughout this process has been quiet support for F-22, in contrast to the vocal opposition from Obama, Gates, and McCain. Most people thought that F-22 was DOA as soon as Gates released the administration’s defense budget. But it turns out that support for the program in Congress is pretty broad.”

I don’t know if I’d call Lockheed and Boeing spending $6.5 million and $2.4 million, respectively, on lobbying in the first three months of 2009 “quiet support.” But yes, it is rather impressive what kind of support can be gotten for an item that the military doesn’t want by spreading its production out into 48 different states, donating vast sums of money to various political action committees, and sending armies of lobbyists onto the Hill. It’s almost as if politicians were interested in getting re-elected or something.

We're moving into a phase of whether we can take even this minor step in defying the military-industrial complex - remember, the overall military budget will increase this year - or whether we're resigned to defense contractors eating up massive government contracts forever, permanently hamstringing our budget. That's what's at stake in this amendment.

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