Fighter plane: 1; arts: 0 -- UPDATED
That F-22 Raptor fighter plane that is widely considered an expensive, obsolete bit of military hardware? On Wednesday, the House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee voted 31 to 30 to shell out a down payment of $369 million in fiscal 2010 for 12 more F-22s.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates -- who, with President Obama, in April tried to shut down plans to make 60 more of the useless things -- was not amused. After the vote, Gates told Reuters news agency: "Frankly, to be blunt about it, the notion that not buying 60 more F-22s imperils the national security of the United States, I find completely nonsense."
In the face of withering criticism of the F-22's military limitations -- it hasn't been used in Iraq or Afghanistan -- supporters of the radar-evading jet had touted its benefits to the struggling national economy. The F-22 provides $12 billion annually in national economic activity through 25,000 jobs in 44 states, as well as an additional 70,000 that are indirectly affected by the program.
For comparison, the national lobbying group Americans for the Arts says the country's 5.7 million workers in the nonprofit culture industry contribute $166 billion to the annual economy. The nonprofit cultural sector has been hard hit by the severe recession, yet the proposed 2010 budget for the National Endowment for the Arts is $161 million -- less than half of what the Armed Services Committee is asking for 12 obsolete fighter jets.
Twenty-five Republicans were joined in voting for the surprise amendment by six Democrats: Jim Marshall (Ga.), Joe Courtney (Conn.), Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Eric Massa (N.Y.), Bobby Bright (Ala.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.).
UPDATE: Monday night Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) filed an amendment to eliminate F-22 funding (and to restore funding for nuclear waste clean-up that had been taken out to pay for the fighter jet). Said Frank (via):
I am of course struck that so many of my colleagues who are so worried about the deficit apparently think the Pentagon is funded with Monopoly money that somehow doesn't count...
The Obama administration has expanded production of a different fighter plane, the F-35, which is being built by many of the same companies designated to work on the F-22. Rep. Frank disputed sponsors' claims that jobs would be affected by scrapping the F-22, noting:
-- Christopher Knight
Photo: F-22 advertising campaign. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press