During a July event, Democrat North Carolina state Sen. Jeff Jackson, who is also a U.S. Senate candidate for North Carolina, said funding for the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter is excessive and he doesn’t think anyone could defend it.
Jackson, responding to a question from the crowd, said, “Your question was about military funding, and, specifically with the F-35, Y’all I don’t think there’s a person on Earth who would defend the amount of money that we poured into that system and who wouldn’t regard that as an enormous excess.”
The F-35 program employs about 2,470 people both directly and indirectly in his state, according to F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee shared a short clip of Jackson’s remarks on July 28.
Jackson, who served in Afghanistan and is also currently a Captain in the North Carolina Army National Guard, said funds for the F-35 could have been “much better spent.”
Jackson’s office did not respond to American Military News’ request for comment.
Lockheed Martin estimates the program generates “$49 billion in annual economic impact and supports over a quarter of a million high-tech, high-skill jobs.”
“Additionally, the F-35 program teams with nearly 1,900 suppliers – including more than 1,000 small businesses– to produce thousands of aircraft components,” the defense contractor says.
According to Lockheed Martin, about 2,470 people in North Carolina support the F-35 program either directly or indirectly, generating $215,500,000 in economic impact for the state. Additionally, 16 suppliers in North Carolina also contribute to the F-35 program.
In April, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated the F-35 will cost in excess of $1.7 trillion over the course of the program’s 66-year lifetime. According to the GAO, the fighter jet used by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines is the Department of Defense’s “most ambitious and costly weapon system in history.”
The costs of the F-35 program have faced pushback from other Democrat members in Congress.
In March, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the F-35 program a “rathole” and suggested should the U.S. consider cutting its losses and investing in other fighter jets.
Rep. John Larson (D-CT), whose district includes the East Hartford headquarters of Pratt & Whitney, which supplies the engines for the F-35, said he has “great respect” for Smith but doesn’t always agree with his Democrat colleague.
Larson is a co-chair of the F-35 Caucus in Congress and, in May, he said, “It is not only the most sophisticated stealth fighter in the world, but the F-35 is also much cheaper than the less advanced 4th generation fighters. The program serves as an incredible example of American manufacturing ingenuity supporting 1,800 suppliers across 48 states and Puerto Rico, including 16,500 jobs in Connecticut alone.”