By Betsi Fores, Rare Staff
Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) has long been a staunch supporter of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the poster child for excessive and wasteful defense spending.
The plane’s manufacturer, Lockheed-Martin, is also Cornyn’s largest campaign donor.
According to OpenSecrets.org, Lockheed Martin contributed $91,200 over the last five years to Cornyn’s campaign fund – $25,000 more than the next highest donor.
What’s more, the planes are manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas.
Politico reported Sunday that current F-35 development is $163 billion over budget, “seven years behind schedule, and will cost taxpayers about twice as much as sending a man to the moon.”
CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday called the F-35 program the “most expensive weapons program in history,” costing taxpayers $400 billion and $1.5 trillion over their lifetime.
The exorbitant cost of these planes has become an increasing focus as some government leaders and officials look to cut defense spending. Many high-ranking officials at the Pentagon have shared skepticism about pursuing the program.
In 2011, the House voted to cut funding of the program, long viewed as a “prime example of government spending and pork barrel politics run amok,” according to ABC News.
But at every turn, Sen. Cornyn has defended the program.
In 2011, when the Department of Defense expressed concerns about continuing to develop F-35s, Cornyn fought back: “I write to express disappointment with your apparent lack of commitment to the success,” the senator wrote in a letter to the Pentagon’s acquisition chief and Deputy Defense Secretary nominee Ashton Carter.
“I am concerned that the DoD’s failure to sufficiently defend and advocate for the F-35 program has enabled and even invited unwarranted criticisms from many corners, including partial or complete cancellation of the program,” he added.
Breaking Defense wrote of the senator’s letter, “Cornyn is clearly part of a greatly stepped up lobbying effort by Lockheed Martin to save the F-35 from major cuts as the Pentagon budget comes under rising pressure.”
Attempts to reach Cornyn’s office for comment were unsuccessful.
The F-35 program’s website boasts that these planes are the Defense Department’s “focal point for defining affordable next generation strike aircraft weapon systems for the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and our allies.”
An internet petition by CredoMobilize.com calls the plane program a “bad deal for America.” “[T]he F-35 doesn’t work. Its development has been plagued by design flaws, technical failures, and a host of other problems,” that continue to delay the development of the planes.
In a study released in January by the Center for International Policy, researcher William Hartung found that the number of jobs Lockheed Martin estimated the F-35 program would create is roughly double that of what it will likely create.
“The ratio of direct jobs to total jobs in the Lockheed Martin estimate far exceeds the ratio suggested by other studies in the field,” Hartung, a Pentagon critic, said.
In 2008, Cornyn sought to protect the production of Lockheed Martin’s F-22 in Fort Worth and lobbied for the corporation to have permission to sell F-16s to Taiwan in 2011. Meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Cornyn worked out a behind-the-scenes compromise to allow Taiwan to purchase the planes.
Cornyn is up for re-election this year and is being challenged in the Republican primary by tea party favorite Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas’ 36th Congressional District.
January was the 53rd anniversary of President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address in which he warned of an emerging “military-industrial-complex”. Eisenhower feared politicians and defense contractors might one day conspire for power or profit as opposed to legitimate security interests.