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The F-22 is not a job creation program

May 5, 2009

The Washington Post printed an article last week on how ending the F-22 raptor program, as proposed by Defense Secretary Gates, will put nearly 100,000 people out of work. This is a concern that needs be addressed, yet this article does not tell the whole story. First of all, Gates has not proposed cutting the F-22 tomorrow. His military budget calls for ending production of the F-22 AFTER 187 more have been produced. So F-22 manufactures will still have jobs for a good period of time, hopefully until the economy picks up. Secondly, weapons manufacturing should not be considered a job-creation program. If the Secretary of Defense thinks we don’t need a weapon, we probably don’t need it and we shouldn’t waste energy and extreme amounts of money manufacturing it. The F-22 is indeed a modern marvel, but it is not needed for the kind of warfare we’re engaged in or are likely to engage in in the near future.

The F-22 has never been flown in Iraq or Afghanistan, for example, because these countries don’t have air combat capabilities. The hundreds of F-22s we already have can be used if we do face air combat in the near future–a very unlikely possibility. The F-22 is simply not needed and making its production–and jobs tied to its production–unsustainable. These jobs need to be transitioned into areas that offer long-term employment. A 2007 study by the Political Economy Research Institute suggests that investing in other areas creates substantially more jobs. Spending $1 billion on the military creates 8,555 jobs. Spending the same amount on the health care creates 10,779 job, 17,687 jobs in education, 19,795 mass transit jobs or 12,804 construction jobs. These are all industries that have more long-term employment need than manufacturing a weapon the Pentagon has decided it doesn’t need. As those final 187 F-22s are being produced, the military should invest in job retraining programs to help workers transition to more sustainable careers.

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