July 21, 2009

Wyden Fights Wasteful F-22 Spending

Washington, D.C. - Keeping his focus on protecting American troops and taxpayer funds, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) spoke on the Senate floor against spending $1.75 billion to purchase seven more F-22 fighter jets that the Air Force has specifically said it does not want. The Pentagon has already purchased 187 of the jets. The speech was in advance of the senator's vote today in support of the Levin-McCain F-22 amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill, S. 1390. The amendment was approved by a vote of 58 to 40.

The text of the speech follows:

Madam President, I rise to support the Levin-McCain Amendment. It seems to me buying more F-22's at this point would meet the very definition of government waste. What you have is a situation where the Pentagon, which suffice it to say hasn't exactly been shy over the years in terms of calling for additional weapons -- they are on record as saying this is unnecessary.

I have been out talking with members of the Guard at home and trying to get their sense of what is needed in a dangerous time, and they have never once mentioned something like this. They talked for example about body armor and boots. They don't talk about more F-22's.

When the Congress is now having a debate about trying to find additional money for health care, for example, to go out and spend close to $2 billion to buy seven more F-22 fighters that the Air Force says it doesn't want, I think just defies common sense.

My home state, for example, would love to be able to hire essential workers that have been laid-off. We could be restoring infrastructure and developing renewable energy. Again in my home state, we've had budget shortfalls. We've seen reductions in essential services, law enforcement just being one. The debate in my view isn't about necessary steps to ensuring a strong National Defense. The question is about whether the United States Congress wants to spend close to $2 billion to pay for more fighter jets that the Air Force doesn't want.

I think it's also important to remember that the F-22 is not being purchased for wars that the United States is currently fighting. Certainly the Taliban and Iraqi insurgents do not have an air force. I strongly believe that the Pentagon ought to be able to prepare for such possibilities. It is the Pentagon who is telling us that we don't need these additional F-22's.

I think it's also important to note that the Pentagon has purchased 187 F-22's. So there is not debate about whether the United States ought to have Fighters in our arsenal. The debate is really whether or not the Air Force needs 194 of them instead of 187. We have a very good Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and Robert Gates has said that 187 are sufficient to combat current and future threats. He's the one who said that more are not needed. He's the one who said, and I quote, "We must break the old habit of layering layer upon layer of cost, complexity and delay systems that are so expensive and elaborate that only a small number can be built and are then useable only in a narrow range of low-probability scenarios."

Madam President, I think Secretary Gates has hit the nail just about as perfectly on the head as you can. He and our country want the strongest defense possible, but there are ways to make better use of that $1.75 billion than on seven more F-22's.

Let me close by saying that I serve on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I know that there are threats to our forces every single day. There is no question -- I see my friend from Georgia, who serves on the Intelligence Committee. He feels very strongly about this as well. We need to make sure that we are protecting our troops in harm's way. But we have a variety of choices. We have a variety of choices in order to secure the protection of our troops. And I intend to work with Chairman Levin, Secretary Gates, the distinguished Senator from Arizona, and the President to ensure that we replace the current F-15 with more capable and safer Fighters.

Last month I visited with some of the 3,000 members of the Oregon National Guard's 41st Brigade Combat Team as they trained for their current deployment to Iraq. Not one of the soldiers told me that their big concern was whether the Air Force would have 194 F-22's instead of 187 of them. They talked to me instead about the best vehicles. They talked to me about the best medical care, if they're injured. They talked about the best body armor and not one of them mentioned the F-22.

Madam President, I am not voting against the F-22; I am voting for the soldier. I am voting for the taxpayer. They both deserve our government's greatest protection at this critical time in our history. I urge the Senate to vote for the Levin-McCain amendment. And with that, I yield the floor.