Lockheed Martin announced last week that most of the remaining F-22 jobs at the plant will be transferred to its plant in Fort Worth, Texas, and notified 560 of its 6,900 Marietta employees that they must make up their minds by Jan. 7 about whether to relocate. The positions being shifted are all salaried, non-production jobs, most of them in engineering.
The company will save about $250 million over the coming five years by consolidating its operations in Fort Worth. But looking at another way, that’s close to 500 high-skill, high-paying jobs being yanked out of the Cobb economy.
The news was announced in person to affected employees on Monday by Jeff Babione, vice president of the F-16/F-22 Integrated Fighter Group.
“The economic realities of today’s defense business climate require us to drive down costs in order to deliver on our commitments to the war fighter and remain competitive for the future,” Babione said in a statement. “Operating from a centralized location will improve our overall affordability, streamline operations, foster an environment of greater collaboration and ultimately enhance the level of support we provide our customers.”
It makes for a melancholy holiday, not just for them but also for those who had originally hoped to see F-22s continue rolling out of the plant for years.
The F-22 is the most capable fighter ever built. The Air Force originally expected to buy at least 650 F-22s back when the contract was awarded in 1991. But the Cold War had ended by the time the first F-22 flew in Marietta in 1997 and the plane’s high cost made it an easy target for congressional budget-cutters. It is an “air dominance” fighter designed to sweep enemy aircraft from the skies and was not used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Obama administration finally pulled the plug on the program after just 195 were built. Meanwhile, the Russians and Chinese now have built fighters that look nearly identical to the F-22 and are believed to fly — and fight — nearly as well. They’ve caught up, in other words, and may soon surpass us. Sadly, our fondness for cheap Chinese consumer goods and the huge trade imbalance that has resulted means that we are providing that country with the financial resources to both out-engineer us and out-build us, should it choose to do so. We are being taxed to support our military and are voluntarily subsidizing China’s.
WE WILL REGRET to see so many loyal Lockheed plant workers heading to Texas, and have long lamented the demise of the F-22 program.
Even more unsettling is that those changes could be just a foretaste of what’s just around the corner, thanks to looming congressional sequestration and the deep cuts in defense that many Washington Democrats are known to favor.
The F-22 commands the skies, but it cannot command Congress and the White House — and that, ironically, turns out to have been its downfall.