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.
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.