I have written several posts on the upcoming decision by the Obama administration on how many additional F-22 Raptor fighters to purchase after the last one of the current 183 aircraft order has been delivered.
There are reports that Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz will ask for 60 more F-22’s. As the decision nears, the media and especially the blogosphere are full of reports, rumors and just pure speculation on this issue.
In my “The F-22 Raptor, It’s Almost Time To Punt,” I quoted an appeal by the organization, “Preserve Raptor Jobs,” which read in part:
Production of the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft, the F-22 Raptor, is in jeopardy. Your help is needed to urge the Obama Administration to save more than 95,000 American jobs and more than $12 billion in national economic activity. Keeping the production line of this model aerospace program open is not another bailout; rather, it simply requires that the new administration release funds already authorized by Congress to continue a successful program…
This weekend the Washington Post also stated:
In one of the new president’s first major decisions on U.S. defense spending, future funding for the radar-evading stealth fighter will soon be on the block, affecting nearly 100,000 jobs spread across virtually every state in the U.S. and impacting military planning for decades to come.
Lockheed Martin Corp., the prime contractor for the F-22, also has said that 95,000 jobs connected to the F-22 would be lost by 2011 if funding for its production is not extended.
Several web sites, however, are disputing such claims.
One even claims in “Preserve Fantasy Raptor Jobs“:
Problem is, that 95,000 number counts indirect employment at firms for whom the F-22 program is just one of many clients. And it also counts Lockheed assembly workers who are in high demand for other aviation projects. In fact, ending Raptor production today might not result in a single unemployed aerospace worker.
At another site, we are presented with the example of a Lockheed Martin facility that reportedly has only 20 workers devoted to Raptor production, an example that is used to extrapolate to and draw conclusions about the 95,000 or so jobs associated with the Raptor:
Consider Lockheed’s plant in Meridian, Mississippi:
“As far as the facility here in Meridian is concerned, there are only about 20 workers devoted to the manufacturing of the tail assembly on the Raptor,” [plant manager Joe] Mercado added. “That is out of a total work force of almost 200 people. I don’t mean to lessen the importance their jobs mean to the families of those 20 people. It is very possible we could transition those workers to the C-130 product line, which is the major contract we have. But would the loss of the Raptor contract cripple us here in Meridian? No.”
Now, clearly no one knows the exact impact of a full or partial shutdown of the F-22 production line. But claims such as, “In fact, ending Raptor production today might not result in a single unemployed aerospace worker,” are total speculation, especially in view of our economic crisis and likely deep cuts in upcoming defense spending. Cuts that may affect other Lockheed Martin product lines such as those to where “those workers could be transitioned.”
The global economic/financial crisis affects many other nations. Nations that are also looking at big defense cuts; cuts possibly affecting the purchase of additional Lockheed Martin aircraft and products, such as the F-16, and possibly the multinational F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, etc.
Lockheed Martin’s business base is truly global with customers and partners in more than 50 countries. For this reason, any defense procurement decisions by such countries are bound to have an impact on Lockheed Martin and its employment base. Vice versa, decisions by the U.S. government regarding major Lockheed Martin defense programs can affect the participation of other nations in such programs, and/or their further acquisition of certain Lockheed Martin products and thus Lockheed Martin employment in the U.S. (See my “Multinational Defense Contracts, Multinational Economic Issues“)
Thus, to suggest that a large cut in the number of F-22s* to be acquired by our Department of Defense will not have a serious effect on American jobs or economic activity is simply not looking at the whole picture and, in my opinion, bordering on the irresponsible.
Of course, economic considerations should not be the primary factors in major defense/national security procurements decisions, but neither should they be ignored or, worse, pooh-poohed.
*Author’s Note: The original post had “F-16s” here. Obvioulsy it should have been F-22s
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.