Sign Up

What Can You Buy For an F-22?

How many fighter-jets can you buy for the same cost of increasing U.S. development aid by 50%?

August 16, 2000

How many fighter-jets can you buy for the same cost of increasing U.S. development aid by 50%?

Only in Washington, D.C., would you come across a full-page newspaper ad for a multi-billion dollar military jet fighter. Let’s fact it, that is not exactly the type of consumer item that Madison Avenue is usually trying to get us to buy. Nevertheless, these planes have to be paid for by a fractious U.S. Congress — one that is already quite aware of the U.S. military’s air superiority.

If the planes aren’t entirely necessary, then why not try to convince the Congress that they are, at the very least, a good bargain? The consortium of firms building the F-22 — a veritable who’s who of U.S. defense contractors — has taken our print ads to point out that the total bill this year comes to less than $3 billion.

The $3 billion in question amounts to less than 1% of the total U.S. defense budget. The cost estimates cover the production and delivery of six fighters. Understandably, perhaps, the ad sidesteps the seeming inevitability that the delivery pace, and bills, are likely to accelerate in coming years.

So, how much money is really involved? The Congressional Budget Office estimates that canceling the F-22 would save the U.S. government at least $36 billion over the next ten years. With that money the U.S. could increase its current level of net foreign aid by almost $4 billion a year. In other words, it would equal a 50% rise in the U.S. aid budget.

Nevertheless, advocates for bigger U.S. aid budgets shouldn’t get too dreamy-eyed over such a budgetary scheme. Even within the United States are plenty of uses for such a large amount of money.

Consider the case of public schools in Washington, D.C. Despite notoriously hot and humid summers, some public schools here still do not have air-conditioning in classrooms. In May and June, the heat turns classrooms into hotboxes, and makes teaching an exercise in futility as educators struggle with exhausted and inattentive students.

But while there is no doubt that there are plenty of worthy uses for the money, a lot is at stake. And as the well-financed and designed ad campaign on the part of military contractors demonstrates, they are determined to keep it. In the meantime, the U.S. taxpayer can count on the expenses of this ad campaign to show up in the next defense budget.