President Obama, with the support of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, has threatened to veto the 2011 defense spending bill if it contains money for the F-22 fighter, which is assembled in Marietta. Obama, Gates and most defense experts without a monetary interest in the issue believe that the F-22 was conceived during the Cold War as a counter to the Soviet Union and a next-generation fighter it was projected to build. The Soviet Union no longer exists; that fighter never came close to being built.
In the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the F-22s already on the flight line have never flown a single mission. It is an extremely expensive weapon without an obvious mission.
Nonetheless, committees in both the House and Senate have decided to court a veto by putting money into the appropriations bill to build more F-22s. (Sen. John McCain, a former fighter pilot himself and ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee, voted against additional money for the F-22 in committee and has promised to help lead a floor fight against the expenditure.) The decision is clearly driven less by national defense needs than by a desire to keep military contractors happy and taxpayer-funded jobs flowing. (At Lockheed’s Marietta plant, most of the jobs now devoted to the F-22 would be saved by ramping up production of the less exotic, less fragile and less expensive F-35 fighter jet, a workhorse of a plane capable of multiple missions.)
Wasting billions on weapons we don’t need hurts the country, and starves the defense budget of money better spent on actual necessities. The effort to save the F-22 is a triumph of selfishness over patriotism.