Defense Procurement As Foreign Policy

A Lone Hero and His ‘Buy America’ Campaign
In almost all cases I favor unrestrained trade for simple economic reasons: comparative advantage. Defense procurement, because it involves government spending and national security, is a political issue and deserves different treatment, I think.

The obvious issue of national security should always take precedence: we develop these technologies to maintain a military technological lead over the rest of the world and we shouldn’t compromise that in any situation. Other things, such as machining the fuselage for an aircraft, could be treated more like traditional trade.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense, though, to farm these jobs out to “allies” who don’t support us reliably and I would use our defense procurement budget, which is larger than the GDP for some countries, as a reward for loyalty. Britain, for example, should be given special consideration because of their unfailing support of the United States. I think we can agree on what the French should receive, as well.

As for the specifics of what Congressman Hunter is trying to achieve with the Joint Strike Fighter, he seems to be mostly in the ballpark. The essence of his proposal seems to be an increase in American-made content from 50% to 65%. That seems reasonable enough, provided that it doesn’t exclude the British. Not only have they been staunch allies, but they are replacing their entire fleet of fighters with JSFs. That represents money in American pockets and, for that alone, they should receive consideration for the manufacture of parts of the JSF.

For me, the larger issue is: should our defense procurement budget be a tool of our foreign policy? My answer is yes.

His name is Duncan Hunter. A former Army Ranger and a Republican congressman from California, he is also the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.  Recently, Hunter has shown that rarest of political traits – courage – in his solitary campaign to compel the Department of Defense to “buy American” and increase the domestic content of components and systems used on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

In doing so, he has gone toe-to-toe with leaders in his own party, the Secretary of Defense and his Senate counterpart, Sen. John Warner, R-VA, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The prime contractor for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is Lockheed Martin. Despite its status as the nation’s pre-eminent defense contractor, Lockheed Martin has sold out other American defense suppliers and their workers to win foreign military customers.

The JSF as designed was proposed as a replacement for several different U.S. aircraft platforms that included the Navy and Marine Corps A-6E Intruders manufactured by Grumman Aerospace; the Boeing/McDonnell Douglas F/A-18s in Navy and Marine Corps service and the Lockheed Martin/General Dynamics F-16s utilized by the U.S. Air Force, the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve.

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