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“Modest reforms to pay and compensation will improve readiness and modernization. It will help keep our all-volunteer force sustainable and strong. Keeping faith also means investing sufficient resources so that we can uphold our sacred obligations to defend the nation and to send our sons and daughters to war with only the best training, leadership and equipment. We can’t shrink from our obligations to one another. The stakes are too high.”

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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The Senator from Lockheed Objects!

Congress members have long found programs built or based in their districts to be critical to national security – even more so that programs not connected to their districts, surprisingly – and have made strategic arguments with uncanny resemblance to their parochial interests. 

Several weeks ago, for example, we brought you the case of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and the Littoral Combat Ship.  Next in line is Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Things aren’t looking so good for the $284 billion Lockheed Martin platform that, conveniently for Sen. Cornyn, is manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas.  Then-Secretary Gates put its Marine variant on two-year probation as part of the FY2012 budget request.  Others have gone further. Simpson-Bowles considered terminating the Marine variant and halving the Air Force and Navy orders.  Rivlin-Domenici, on the counsel of Gordon Adams and I, contemplated outright cancellation.

Yesterday Sen. Cornyn pushed back, informing Ash Carter that he should expect some tough questions as his nomination hearing to be Deputy Secretary approaches.  They all center around one premise.  “There is no acceptable alternative to the F-35 program,” Cornyn writes, “and it must be placed on a path to success.”

Maybe there’s no acceptable alternative for Lockheed Martin, which saw its F-22 line truncated and recent Foreign Military Sales orders of its F-16 denied, but the defense budget should reflect our national interests, not Lockheed Martin’s. It’s clear that Alan Simpson, Erskine Bowles, Pete Domenici, and Alice Rivlin see significant reductions as alternatives that are reasonable and responsible with respect to our security.  As does Cornyn’s neighbor to the north, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

With a line-up like that, and a rap sheet as weighty as the F-35’s, Cornyn might better use his bully pulpit to align our national and economic security rather than getting bogged down by parochial interests.