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Jon Soltz Headshot

Will Congress Put Useless Fighter Jets Above America?

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Let me get this straight. The latest polls say three-quarters of the American people want a public option in health care, yet it's in question. But, Congress is about to throw $369 million (on a down-payment of $2 billion) for a dozen F-22 fighter jets that even the Pentagon doesn't want. Oh, and the money for it? It's coming out of funds that were set aside to clean up dangerous nuclear waste in the U.S.

Only in Washington.

For those not familiar with the F-22 and why it's a waste, let me explain. It's one of the most - if not the most advanced air-to-air fighters in the world.... To fight the Soviet Union's next generation fighters. That's right, that's why it was developed. The fighter has limited air-to-ground capabilities, which renders it pretty much useless in the wars we're fighting right now, and might be fighting well into the future. President Obama and Secretary Gates have rightly decided to shift our procurement to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which we could actually use, because of its air-to-ground and stealth capabilities.

Nevertheless, to play it safe, we've got 187 of the obsolete F-22s on-hand or in the pipeline already, just in case the Soviet Union ever comes through with their next-generation fighters. Secretary Gates asked for only four more, to complete what the Pentagon said it could use. After that, the military doesn't want any more of them. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz have publicly withdrawn support for it saying, "The time has come to move on."

Apparently not those looking out for defense contractors, though.

And so, Congress is about to use the Defense Authorization Bill to pay for fighters we don't need from Lockheed-Martin, while taking money from cleaning up nuclear waste. Six decades of U.S. nuclear weapons research, testing, and production activities have left dozens of Department of Energy sites contaminated by radioactive and hazardous waste. The contamination threatens workers, communities, and the environment, including major water supplies.

Now, other veterans and I aren't for cutting the Pentagon budget in a way that would hurt our troops in the field, or hurt our ability to defend America now or in the future. But, our money is best spent on equipment that is so desperately needed in Iraq and Afghanistan - items like the Stryker armored vehicle, which the troops and veterans of VoteVets.org have almost unanimously raved about, for its ability to maneuver while protecting them from IEDs. That helps us a lot more than planes sitting idle somewhere.

So, a warning. To any in Congress who vote to keep this money for the F-22 in, don't try to present it as a pro-military vote. The military doesn't want it. Troops can't use it. Most veterans would say they're not for it. And none of us are for letting dangerous nuclear waste continue to seep into our land and water. So don't try to tie this pork to troops and veterans.

In fact, those who really care about the military, troops, veterans, and America will vote to strip the money for the F-22 out. We'll be watching.

Crossposted at VetVoice.com