Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Damn It Gates!

The Defense Secretary got his wish and funds for the further production of the F-22 have been stricken from the defense budget. This is a bigger news item than it should be. First of all, halting the F-22 is not going to imperil national security. Sorry to say it, but the Raptor isn’t the solution for today’s threat matrix. This is a largely symbolic action on the part of Secretary Gates and President Obama. The money slashed from this line of the budget is going somewhere else. It’s not being “saved.” And considering it is 2 billion out of a nearly 700 billion dollar budget, it wouldn’t be the biggest “savings” in any case like it is being suggested by Gates and Obama. So there you go, a punch for both the supporters and the haters of the F-22.

I am biased towards the F-22. It sure is a beauty and the technology that is behind it makes my mouth water. I would love to get my hands on one of those! I think it is a shame that the program is being cut below the minimum requirements of the USAF. Even though, there are just under 200 operational planes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s enough. I have no idea what the operational requirements of the Air Force is but when you take into account how many of those planes will be set aside as trainers, under maintenance, or otherwise not serviceable, how many can we get into the air?

Thinking more broadly, though, I think that while the defense budget is a huge behemoth, I will not say it is wasteful spending. I really don’t care for those people who will say we can spend two billion for these planes and then complain that we can’t give everyone a free healthcare. My personal view is that the government has a duty to protect citizens, not coddle them. And besides, we spend more on health care and other social safety programs than we do on defense although I will concede that I would like to see the percentage of defense spending against the entire budget decreased… as well a decrease in real dollars. I don’t think people give enough credit for what is another aim of the US military-and that is deterrence.

The weapons systems being deployed today is envisioned to be cutting edge or comparable to those of our adversaries for the next 50 years with China being the main boogeyman. If we were to shift our thinking so that we become focused on the present needs/goals of the military then we may be unprepared for what is ahead. Who is to say that we won’t need those F-22s in the future?

There may be some solace for supporters in that F-22 may get sold to other countries. Unlike the F-35 JSF which was always intended to be exportable, the F-22 was largely supposed to be only for the US. However, if things go well, Australia and Japan may continue with plans to buy the F-22 variant and keep production going.

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