The Defense Authorization bill being considered by the Senate this week would buy taxpayers seven shiny new F-22 Raptors for the paltry sum of $1.75 billion. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has shed doubt on the utility of the F-22s in security terms and suggested a cap of 187 stealth jets. Yet Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, who introduced an amendment to strip the F-22 funds, are up against the formidable will of the oldest of American institutions: the Military Industrial Complex.
The appeal of the F-22 lies not in its much-hyped stealth capabilities or its combat-tested credentials. Indeed, it has not been used in Iraq or Afghanistan. The appeal of the F-22 lies in the fact that it is manufactured in 44 states by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and an army of lesser subcontractors. Senators have lashed out because of their concern that ending F-22 production will mean the loss of skilled manufacturing jobs.
Lo and behold, the Center for Responsive Politics published a list of Boeing and Lockheed’s PAC contributions to members of Congress for the 2009-2010 election cycle. You don’t have to look too closely to see that members representing key production sites for the F-22 – like Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss – are among the top recipients of campaign dollars. Members who serve on the Armed Services and Defense Appropriations committees are also top beneficiaries of defense contractors’ limitless generosity.
Thanks to CRP for this timely airing of dirty laundry.