Oct 31 2013
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt
Since World War II, the United States military has maintained the most powerful force the world has ever seen. This unprecedented military power kept us safe during the Cold War and eventually brought the Soviet Union to its knees; it is enabling us to track down and defeat terrorists halfway around the globe, and it keeps the peace today by forcing rogue regimes to think twice before they make a single move.
We owe our troops a debt of gratitude for preserving this peace through strength each and every day. But we also owe them something else: a commitment to provide them with the tools they need to execute their critical mission defending America. For years, America’s aerospace industry has kept our military force on the cutting edge, armed with technologies no other nation can match.
Today, we are forced to make difficult federal budget decisions. However, those decisions should not put Washington at risk of breaching this sacred promise. In an environment where cost and schedule overruns are too common, the F/A-18 is a model defense program; delivered on-cost and ahead of schedule, it has the lowest per-hour operating cost of any aircraft in the Department of Defense’s inventory and continues to evolve to defeat threats and incorporate innovative capabilities. The latest proposed evolution, the Advanced Super Hornet, will affordably meet the full spectrum of current and future threats.
Unfortunately, without additional orders from the Pentagon, Super Hornet production may end in 2016. This decision would guarantee a production gap for at least three years, when the Navy’s new Joint Strike fighter is set to begin production at a full rate. This is more than just a disturbing bit of military trivia. It could lead to a shortfall in Navy fighter jets, leaving many American aircraft carriers without combat aircraft — like a bow without arrows.
Headquartered in Berkeley and as one of the largest employers in the St. Louis area with 15,000 workers, Boeing’s Defense, Space and Security division represents a critical component of both our national security and the local economy. If the Super Hornet production line ends, there will be an impact on 90,000 workers who contribute to the program in St. Louis and nationwide, and there will be a loss of $6 billion that the program contributes annually to America’s economy. It could launch a “brain drain” in tactical aviation as experienced personnel transition to other industries. That loss could cripple the ability of the defense industry to design and produce the next generation of programs like the Long Range Strike Bomber to follow the B-2, or the Navy’s next advanced strike fighter planned to be produced in the middle of this century.
Closing the F/A-18 line would also leave a sole-source fighter jet industrial base, with no competition to bring down costs or to generate innovative technology breakthroughs. This is not how the U.S. has stayed at the forefront of military technology. And it would be a serious mistake to change our approach now.
For these reasons, the Senate Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, included funding to encourage the Navy to keep the F/A-18 line open next year and beyond. I will continue to fight for this as we finalize a budget. Even at a time of shrinking DOD budgets, we must find a way to preserve our industrial base, so workers in St. Louis and around the country can continue to support our military with the best fighter jets in the world now and well into the future. This commitment is essential to our men and women in uniform as well as to global security.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt is a Republican from Springfield, Mo.
Read more here.