Letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees

Letter

By:  Ben Cardin Roger Wicker Melquiades Martinez Kit Bond Edward Kennedy, Sr.
Date: June 22, 2009
Location: Washington, DC

Bond Renews Efforts to Restore Super Hornet Funds

After last week's victory to reverse the President's decision to eliminate the C-17, U.S. Senator Kit Bond today renewed efforts to increase funding for the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

"Underfunding the Super Hornet gambles with our ability to project U.S. power from aircraft carriers, damages our security in the long run by eroding our competitive domestic industrial base, and puts more than 110,000 American jobs at risk," said Bond. "I'm not willing to make this risky bet which is why I've joined with Senator Kennedy to restore funding for this critical program."

Bond today sent letters to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of both the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees urging his colleagues to restore funding for the critical Super Hornet fighter. Bond teamed up with Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) to lead the effort in the Senate Appropriations Committee to include a third multi-year contract of F/A-18s.

Since the White House announced the underfunding of the Super Hornet, Bond has used Congressional hearings, meetings with Pentagon officials, and rallies with workers to repeatedly stress this decision could result in empty carrier decks, pose a risk to America's ability to meet current and emerging threats, and deteriorate the U.S. tactical fighter production business. Bond also pointed to the March 2009 study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service that projects a 243 Navy strike-fighter shortfall unless the Administration changes course.

Although Bond acknowledges the transition to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will likely happen and is "too big to fail," he emphasizes that this fighter, which is long-delayed and over-budget, is currently unavailable. On the other hand the St. Louis-made F/A-18 Super Hornet is a currently available and affordable. Bond touted the Super Hornet as the world's most lethal aircraft. In fact, funding the Super Hornet to bridge the gap before the JSF is ready will also save millions in taxpayer dollars. Three Super Hornets can be purchased at $49 million a copy versus one JSF at $150 million. Bond also continued to sound the alarm that haphazard cuts to defense programs, like the Super Hornet, could cause irreparable damage to our defense industrial base. Funding cuts to the Super Hornet program could result in reduced competition and the loss of the engineers, skilled workers and design teams that produce the aircraft and maintain our technological and military superiority.

The text of the letter Senators Bond, Kennedy, Cardin (D-MD), Wicker (R-MS), and Martinez (R-FL) sent to the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees follows:

Dear Mr. Chair/Ranking Member:

We express our strong support for the increased procurement of F/A-18E/F aircraft as the most cost-effective, near-term means to address the Navy's tactical fighter shortfall. We continue to be deeply concerned by reports of a significant shortfall in the Navy's inventory of tactical fighter aircraft. The Chief of Naval Operations spoke of the looming strike-fighter shortfall in Congressional testimony last year, stating that even under optimistic conditions, the shortfall for the Navy and Marine Corps would exceed 125 aircraft and as recently as one month ago, the Navy briefed to Congress a 243 aircraft shortfall.

As you know, Navy and Marine Corps airpower has been an essential part of every conflict since World War II. The threat of overwhelming carrier-based airpower has prevented numerous conflicts from beginning. As the aircraft shortfall worsens, our nation's ability to continue to prevent and respond to conflicts around the world will be greatly diminished.

The F/A-18E/F is an advanced capability, next-generation aircraft in service around the world today and provides a low-risk and affordable solution to the Navy's tactical fighter shortfall. The F/A-18E/F has a history of on-time and on-budget delivery, and $1.7 billion in savings has been generated to date by the use of multi-year contracting. We also strongly encourage you to include a third multi-year contract of F/A-18s in the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act.