F-22 as Stimulus

An newspaper advocacy ad touting the virtues of the F-22 Raptor is displayed among stories about the ailing economy, in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009. Faced with a national economic crisis and a new president, the defense industry is itself playing defense. Its latest lobbying message: Weapons systems aren't just instruments of national security, they're vital jobs programs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

An newspaper advocacy ad touting the virtues of the F-22 Raptor is displayed among stories about the ailing economy, in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009. Faced with a national economic crisis and a new president, the defense industry is itself playing defense. Its latest lobbying message: Weapons systems aren

Andrew Exum catches something that we online-only news consumers missed:

Those of you who still read the paper copy of the Washington Post in the morning could not have helped but notice the full-page color advertisement for the F-22 in today’s front section. The really interesting thing about the advertisement was that it made the case for the F-22 based upon two things:

1. National Security
2. American Jobs

And this, folks, is why the F-22 is never ever going away. Because at this stage, it’s defenders have all but abandoned the increasingly laughable idea that manned aircraft is the way of the future and have begun to call the F-22 what it actually is: a massive federal jobs program.

Yup. And a smart advertising campaign, too.

The thing is, even for a guy like me — who has been critical of spending our money on not just one but two new fighter-interceptors when we’re in a budget crunch and fighting two low-tech wars — this makes sense. If you’re trying to trim the defense budget and focus on the wars we’re actually fighting, spending as much money as we have spent on the F-22 is embarrassing. But if you’re trying to stimulate the economy and you’ve decided budget deficits don’t matter in the near term, there are many worse ways to preserve jobs than by spending money on the F-22. The only irony is watching all these free market, fiscal conservatives suddenly find their inner Karl Marx and go all command economy on us when it comes to big defense programs.

Well, if you’re going to spend tons of your grandchildren’s tax dollars, you might as well 1) bring jobs to the district and 2) buy cool military toys.   I agree that unmanned is the wave of the future — if not the present.  But F-22s are undeniably a good jobs program.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. I don’t think this is a cost effective way to spend “stimulus” money. There is a very long, expensive tail that accompanies the F-22, unless we are just going to park them in the desert after they are built.

    I’m not entirely opposed to the F-22, but anyone jumping on the “stimulus” bandwagon as a rationale for funding it should get beaten with a stick.

  2. Scott Swank says:

    On a more boring tack, accelerating the repair of military equipment from Iraq/Afghanistan could be pretty efficient. And it has the up side of not creating a product of disputed value — e.g. the F-22.

  3. Drew says:

    Sigh. In the immortal words of David Byrne………same as it ever was.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Not all fiscal stimulus is created equal. As I understand it the theory is that the more times the money changes hands, the higher the multiplier is. That’s why giving $1 million dollars to one person doesn’t provide as much stimulus as giving $1,000 to 1,000 people. So, again in theory, the best stimulus is something like extending unemployment benefits or expanding food stamps.

    Since defense employs a relatively smaller number of people who are relatively well compensated, it would provide relatively less stimulus. Relatively speaking.

  5. steve s says:

    Well, if you’re going to spend tons of your grandchildren’s tax dollars, you might as well 1) bring jobs to the district

    Be careful James! One of your lesser cobloggers was just screaming at the tv that ain’t no gummint create no job. I’d hate for you to get a copy of The Fountainhead or a Robert Heinlein novel thrown at your noggin.

  6. sam says:

    I’d hate for you to get a copy of The Fountainhead or a Robert Heinlein novel thrown at your noggin.

    On Heinlein. In one of his novels (I want to say Podkayne of Mars, but its wiki page makes me think not. Anyhoo, I read whatever book it was a long time ago.), the young heroine is talking to her uncle about the city-state in which they live. The city-state is based on pure libertarianism. The uncle says that it’s either the most free society ever or the most despotic. I think Heinlein, unlike the libertarians who worship at his altar, was aware of the dangers of egoism unleashed. He would, of course, come down on the side to the individual, but his thinking on libertarianism was more subtle and nuanced than most folks think.

  7. Staring In Disbelief says:

    All you armchair generals are all just soooo sure the F-22 is a complete boondoggle, in spite of the fact that it comes out of an organization with an unparalleled record of victory and achievement. I would argue that the DoD is the ONLY FUNCTIONING arm of the government right now, hewing entire NATIONS out of the most wretched raw material, while everyone else sprays STUPEFYING amounts of dollars around to little or no effect. It’s just like the 70’s when all of your ignorant predecessors criticized the Patriot, Aegis, Abrams, Bradley and Nimitz weapon systems as bloated, unnecessary, and ineffective just before they cowed the Soviet Union, crushed the Iraqi’s in Desert Storm and have provided the backbone of unparalleled security for our country and the world for the last 30 years. It’s so easy to second guess the Pentagon, but thanks to Congress it takes decades to field an effective weapon system. Keeping our options open on the air supremacy front (which all of you take for granted) seems a good idea to me for the price (which is UTTERLY DWARFED by the criminal wastage from Fannie Mae ALONE).

  8. I try to side with the angels when it comes to defending and equipping our armed forces, but I don’t think you will hear the words “an organization with an unparalleled record of victory and achievement” coming out of my mouth when it comes to procurements initiated by the Pentagon. Their successes certainly do not give them a blank check to do whatever they want. Who do they think they are after all, the Treasury Department?

    The F-22 is one way to help maintain air superiority, not the way.

  9. Brett says:

    the only irony is watching all these free market, fiscal conservatives suddenly find their inner Karl Marx and go all command economy on us when it comes to big defense programs.

    When have “free market, fiscal conservatives” ever systematically opposed big defense programs? I must have missed that plank in the Reagan / Gingrich / Delay / Bush platform. Maybe they wrote it in very tiny print.

    Grover Norquist partially included defense spending in the government that he wanted to “drown in a bathtub,” except he meant “cut it in half” instead of “drown” in the case of defense spending. But even Norquist’s view was not the majority view of politicians who generally espoused free-marketesque positions.

    Exhibit #1: missile defense.

    Unless you want to make Ron Paul the standard-bearer for free market conservatives, there is no irony here. Actually existing free-market ideology is just more subtle; defense spending is a conscious blind spot.

  10. Eneils Bailey says:

    If you’re trying to trim the defense budget and focus on the wars we’re actually fighting, spending as much money as we have spent on the F-22 is embarrassing.

    OK, so spending trillions on welfare and social programs has kept our nation safe?

    The defense budget has always been the “bad boy” of the National Budget while fostering irresponsibility and slothfulness has been treated as a National virtue.

  11. Jay C. says:

    Brett: I’ve read one of Exum’s books, read some of his columns. I have nothing to say to denigrate his service, but his political views seem to come straight from the HuffPo crowd, even when HuffPo was nothing more than an ensemble that the dextrosphere poked fun at.

  12. Barry says:

    James: ” But if you’re trying to stimulate the economy and you’ve decided budget deficits don’t matter in the near term, there are many worse ways to preserve jobs than by spending money on the F-22. ”

    But many, many, which would be far better.

    Sheesh.

  13. GM says:

    If you’re going to compare apples to apples, focusing in the F-35 program vs the F-22 program would have a much better effect because the F-35 is an international fighter program (behind schedule).

    Or we could just sell the F-22, which plenty of nations are currently on their knees begging for.

    Eneils, next you’re going to say “Think of the children!” Tell me one scenario in which we need MORE F-22’s to keep us safe.

  14. Brett A. says:

    When did we get another Brett? I’m going to have to distinguish myself now.

    In any case, the F-22 is the best air-superiority/interceptor fighter on the market (certainly better than the F-35, which will probably end up being more costly), and it is available for production. Hell, we need to make more of them anyways, since the current production line is too small – it’s not profitable for the manufacturers to make the various parts it will need.

  15. steve s says:

    On Heinlein. In one of his novels (I want to say Podkayne of Mars, but its wiki page makes me think not. Anyhoo, I read whatever book it was a long time ago.), the young heroine is talking to her uncle about the city-state in which they live. The city-state is based on pure libertarianism. The uncle says that it’s either the most free society ever or the most despotic. I think Heinlein, unlike the libertarians who worship at his altar, was aware of the dangers of egoism unleashed. He would, of course, come down on the side to the individual, but his thinking on libertarianism was more subtle and nuanced than most folks think.
    Posted by sam | February 11, 2009 | 08:00 am | Permalink

    He might be. I’m not sure. Haven’t read a biography of the guy, just 5 or 6 of his novels. I just mention him because when I run into a really naive libertarian type, it usually turns out that they read and were *deeply* affected by Rand and Heinlein, and never grew out of it.

    People who believe in the Libertarian Utopia are just as blinkered and naive as the Marxists.