By Harry Prestanski
Special to The Vindicator
A recent report by the Government Accountability Office, an independent, non-partisan arm of Congress, held good news for the American servicemen and women tasked with protecting our freedom in hostile skies. The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most advanced jet fighter the world has ever seen, is on track and making exceptional progress toward the day when all branches of the U.S. military can feature this cutting-edge airplane in their arsenals.
The GAO praised many aspects of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, citing improvements in addressing technical risk, manufacturing and supply processes, and delivery rates. Increased efficiencies have cut labor hours by 14 percent and seven of 10 2012 management objectives were met, while substantial progress was made toward meeting others.
As with any new program of this magnitude, there are issues that still need to be addressed. But it is safe to say that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is making the kind of progress we want to see.
It is critically important that the F-35 continues to receive the full support of the U.S. government. This is the fighter jet that offers our military personnel the highest level of performance and capability possible. I am a veteran. When I served, I was very thankful for the effective, state-of-the-art equipment the military provided me. In today’s high-tech world, the F-35 is the tool our volunteer servicemen and women deserve and must have. We owe them no less.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter not only protects American national security, it supports our economy as well. Building this primarily American-made airplane will involve the joint efforts of 1,300 manufacturers and suppliers across the country. It will initially support 133,000 U.S. jobs, with total employment estimates of 260,000 jobs when the full rate of production is achieved by the end of the decade.
Here in Ohio, there are 47 different supplier locations for the F-35. These companies provide family-wage jobs for 2,876 Ohio workers, generating a $353,700,000 impact on our state economy.
Despite its obvious value, the uncertainty surrounding military funding these days has called the F-35’s future into question. Downgrading our F-35 commitment now would not only harm our own national security, it would have worldwide implications.
We are not the only nation whose security is tied to the F-35. Some of our closest allies, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, are procuring this fighter. If the United States were to cut its F-35 quantities, it would cause the cost of the jet to rise, put the program in jeopardy and possibly give our allies reason to minimize their investments in future military resources.
I am convinced that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is essential to our national security, and to the economic prosperity of our state and nation. I ask my fellow Ohioans to join me in contacting our Congressional delegation and urging them to support full funding for the F-35. We owe it to our military and we owe it to our country.
Harry Prestanski is executive director and founding member of Ohio Veterans United, a statewide organization that supports a strong national defense and traditional American Values. He is a Marine Corps veteran, serving 16 months in Vietnam, and resides in West Chester.