With the supercommittee’s failure to cut U.S. government spending, threats to the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter budget continue, whether Congress legislates federal government cuts to meet terms of last summer’s budget deal or allows sequestration — mandatory cuts across all government programs — to go forward. As a fellow Georgian, I can tell you that threats to the F-35 are also threats to our state’s economy.
The F-35 is unquestionably an important and critical military aircraft program. It is the first truly transformational military aircraft with the potential to deliver unmatched capabilities and advantages for the U.S. and our allies.
Its founding principles are affordability, lethality, survivability and supportability. The F-35 delivers it all.
The F-35 capabilities are unprecedented, with its superior range, cutting-edge avionics, next-generation sensor fusion, stealth qualities, and short-takeoff/vertical landing abilities. With nine countries, and their collective industrial prowess, involved in its development, the F-35 meets specific requirements of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps; Great Britain’s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force; and future needs of air forces worldwide.
The Joint Strike Fighter program is bringing together the world’s most experienced aircraft manufacturers to produce a fighter that provides unprecedented and overwhelming advantages to coalition forces facing the life and death realities of combat.
And in Georgia, our industrial base and workers are a key part of building the F-35, and in turn, the plane is contributing to our state’s economy, over 1,000 direct jobs and support to 20 suppliers across the state.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently said, “Let me make (it) very clear that the United States is committed to the development of the F-35.” General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, the F-35 is not in the budget “cross hairs” as the Pentagon seeks to cut its budget.
Given support of the senior civilian and uniform military officials, there’s reason to be hopeful that the F-35 program — and its contribution to Georgia jobs — is safe. But wrangling in Congress to cut the defense budget is leading some call for cuts to or elimination of the F-35 program.
We can’t afford these changes in the program. Some of the same voices that are calling for a federal budget that focuses solely on supporting American jobs are the voices that also are calling for cuts in the defense budget. This view is misplaced in the F-35 case.
The F-35 will ensure that America and its allies maintain the edge over any threats the military will face in the next conflict. We need only look to the new possible military threats in the Middle East and competition in Asia to realize that America’s ability to maintain air superiority and provide our men and women in uniform with the tools they need to protect our country in future conflict rely on the kind of technology that the F-35 program is providing.
As a resident of Georgia, I’m proud of the crucial work being done on the F-35 project by companies across our state. As an American, I’m concerned that the failure of the budget supercommittee may slow down production and leave our troops without the support of this stealthy new aircraft. As an official of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, I am troubled by all the economic damage this failure could cause.
Major Gen. (Ret.) David Bockel is the Executive Director of the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee, an affiliate of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.