The final vote is 58 to 40. With that victory the Obama White House has eliminated the last major threat to the largest and most expensive defense program in history, the F-35, and guaranteed the elimination of thousands of jobs throughout the country. If there is any consolation to be had here it comes from the fact that there will be a time when this administration's weakness on defense, and the subservience of their enablers in Congress, will reemerge as a national political issue. And at that time, some Republican will run an ad that shows the trillions this government has wasted on pet projects and social experiments and contrast that with the determination that same government showed in killing a crucial weapons system -- because they decided there isn't enough money left for our military to have the very best equipment money can buy.
America is less safe now than it was an hour ago.
Update: President Obama celebrates:
"I reject the notion that we have to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on outdated and unnecessary defense products to keep this nation secure," the president declared, saying he was "grateful" the Senate voted to kill the F-22 fighter jets "that military experts and members of both parties say we do not need."
Budgeting, the president said, "is a zero-sum game," with "every dollar of wasteâ€¦a dollar we can't spend to support our troops or prepare for future threats or protect the American people."
"If more money goes to F-22s, it is our troops and our citizens who lose," the president said, calling further funding of the F-22, targeted for elimination by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, "an inexcusable waste of money."
The F-22 was many things, but it was not outdated. And there were many military experts (and commanders) who took a different view, who believed that the current number of F-22s put the United States at "high risk" in the words of General Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff, or that "there are no studies that demonstrate 187 F-22s are adequate to support our national military strategy," in the words of Gen. John Corley, Commander Air Combat Command, or that the president's "F-22 recommendation rests on an assertion that we cannot afford to equip our airmen, on whom we rely to gain and maintain air superiority, with the best weapons that our defense industrial base has developed," in the words of Gen. Richard Hawley.
Also, it seems that only the United States military is asked to confront budget choices from the perspective of a zero-sum game. Will health care reform that takes 50 million uninsured and provides them with free medical coverage require any sacrifice on the part of the American people? No, we're told the program will be deficit neutral. How about $787 billion in stimulus spending? No, that will come back to us in millions of new jobs and a jump start of the economy. But national security is a zero-sum game, which is why Secretary Gates has authorized the Army to increase end strength by 22,000 but has decided to pay for those new soldiers by cutting back in weapons modernization spending. We may have more troops to patrol Afghanistan, but they'll be patrolling on bicycles -- because it's a zero-sum game.