Jet aircraft may not be best use of federal dollars

The June 7 edition of the Marietta Times contained a guest editorial extolling the virtues of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter military aircraft program. I would respectfully disagree with the writer that the vast expenditures that this aircraft require are a wise investment of precious federal dollars.

This fighter jet, which was designed for distribution to three branches of the military, is the most expensive weapons system in history and has been replete with technological flaws, cost overruns, missed production schedules, and a huge price tag. The visuals associated with the helmet that pilots use with this aircraft are still jittery; the F-35 cannot land on aircraft carriers; and Lockheed Martin has missed production deadlines repeatedly.

Originally intended to cost $69 million per unit, it now has a price tag of $137 million per unit, with a total cost of $396 billion over the long run. The Pentagon expects to purchase 2,443 units of this flawed aircraft by 2037. Why do we need so many of this aircraft? And why do we need even one of them?

This weapons system is an appalling example of irresponsible spending, which should be on the chopping block for the purpose of deficit reduction long before cuts in entitlement programs or other educational, work force development, and health-promotion programs that provide direct benefit to millions of Americans.

Instead of spending government money on this strategically outdated military aircraft, we should be investing federal dollars in training and retraining our work force for the high-demand, high-wage jobs that go unfilled by Americans in areas like advanced manufacturing, welding, engineering, computer science, and health-care professional fields. And instead of building with federal funds over 2,000 aircraft that are strategic hold overs from the cold war, we should be investing federal money in rebuilding our national infrastructure of roads, bridges, airports, and ports in order to increase our national productive capacity. Investments in modernizing our work force and in repairing our infrastructure would create many times more jobs than the limited number of positions in military technology attributed to the F-35.

Of course, we all know that federal contracts for F-35-related business is intentionally spread over as many congressional districts as possible in order to maximize legislative support for this irresponsible waste of government spending.

I urge readers of the Times to write your senators and U.S. representative and urge them to cut this wasteful and militarily irrelevant piece of the federal budget. Military spending is government spending, and if we are serious about cutting the federal budget, we will give careful scrutiny to military programs like the F-35.

George Banziger