The strong Senate vote to halt production of the F-22 fighter airplane does all that the the media suggests: advances procurement reform, shows fiscal restraint and gives the Obama Administration a needed victory.
The historic background suggests lots more. It starts with the persistence of Council for a Livable World (CLW), who worked to complete what it started. A few weeks ago I was asked to release an interview I gave over 10 years ago. The interview will eventually appear on a foreign policy website devoted to scholarship on arms control issues. This long forgotten interview has me referencing the good work CLW was doing under John Isaacs’ and Jerry Grossman’s leadership. I quoted John Isaacs on the F-22 to the effect that this might not be his first weapon of choice to eliminate but that it is important to show that a weapon’s production can be stopped. Such an effort has intrinsic merit.
The fight on the F-22 is far from over. The House appropriators are a determined lot. The moneyed interests behind this weapon pay no mind to its lack of defense utility or its astronomical costs that thereby hurt more needed defense actions.
We can take a few lessons from the F-22 effort that can lead to advancing three treaties: START, Nuclear Non-Proliferation and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
- A determined effort by the Administration persuades Senators. Secretary Gates and President Obama were unflinching and unambiguous in this effort. They deserve our praise.
- Counter triangles have the power to trump the vested interests of outmoded weapons and their producers, their allies in Congress and the standpatters in the bureaucracy. Senate Armed Services Chairman Levin (D-Mich) and Armed Services ranking minority member McCain (R-Ariz) waged a skilled and spirited fight working closely with groups such as CLW to make a real difference. The Administration was the third side of the triangle.
- This effort sets the stage for similar operations to be conducted in support of the major arms control treaties that will begin to be considered as early as this fall. As a veteran House and Senate head counter, I know the value of a two source rule on determining where legislators stand. An active Obama Administration adds strength to the effort. It becomes a three source rule: interest groups talking with members and building support from home constituencies; Senators talking with colleagues; and Pentagon, State Department, Energy Department and White House officials speaking with Senators.
A determined Administration, strong Senate leadership from Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Kerry (D-Mass) and hopefully from ranking minority member Senator Lugar (R-Ind), the added support from Senator Levin and hopefully Senator McCain and active support from knowledgeable groups such as CLW and others will set the stage for a world free of nuclear weapons.