By AUSTIN WRIGHT
A research and advocacy group is accusing Lockheed Martin of exaggerating the number of jobs its F-35 program generates in states across the country. Not so, says Lockheed.
From an economic standpoint, the sticking point is the multiplier effect. Lockheed says its F-35 Lightning II supports 32,500 direct jobs nationwide, plus an additional 92,500 indirect jobs — for a total of about 125,000, not including jobs generated by the program outside the country. Lockheed says it got to that number using a multiplier of 2.86, a figure it contends is in line with the industry standard.
But William Hartung of the Center for International Policy says the figure “is far higher than the ones generated by other studies of Pentagon spending.” In areport due out Wednesday, Hartung cites examples of other studies that used smaller figures, including a recent industry-backed study that used a multiplier of 1.92 to measure the effects of defense spending. By that standard, the F-35 program would sustain fewer jobs than Lockheed claims.
Philosophically, the sticking point is whether the jobs argument is relevant to the debate over the merits of the fifth-generation fighter jet.
Hartung, a longtime F-35 critic who wrote a cutting book about Lockheed’s history called “Prophets of War,” says the F-35 program should be measured on its strategic value, not “pork barrel politics.”
“The claims about the F-35 as a job generator are an argument of last resort for a program that has been plagued by cost overruns, performance problems and questions about how many are needed in a world in which aerial combat between rival fighter planes seems like an increasingly obsolete form of warfare,” he writes.
Lockheed spokeswoman Laura Siebert countered that the F-35 program “has a very large positive economic impact in the U.S., producing high technology jobs in small and large communities across the country.”
“We calculate the jobs impact for our programs using methods accepted by industry and leading economists,” she said in a statement. “We expect the positive U.S. economic impact to continue to grow as F-35 production volume increases.”
In his report, Hartung takes Lockheed to task over its assertion that the F-35 program sustains jobs in 46 states — a data point that has helped the company widen its political support in Congress. Hartung notes that more than half of the jobs generated by the program are in two states — Texas and California — and that 11 states have “fewer than a dozen F-35-related jobs.”
“Work on the F-35 is, in fact, highly concentrated, with many states receiving minimal benefits, even according to Lockheed Martin’s own exaggerated claims,” Hartung writes, describing Pentagon spending as “virtually the worst job creator of any action the federal government can take.”
The F-35 program has irked some government watchdogs because of its history of cost overruns and delays — problems that F-35 advocates say are in the past as the program turns a corner.
The program enjoys strong support in Congress and is considered a top priority by the Air Force, with commanders saying they’ll seek to protect its funding as Pentagon spending flattens — a goal that could hasten the end of other fighter programs, such as the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
The omnibus spending bill recently signed by President Barack Obama would reduce advance procurement funding for the F-35 program, trimming three aircraft from the Pentagon’s request next fiscal year. But the program remains on track to provide the military 2,443 aircraft in its lifetime, as POLITICO reported last week.