A STRONG national defense has always been our country’s best and last resort to keep us safe from adversarial countries and nonaligned violent terrorist groups. Diplomacy and soft power help strengthen alliances and build coalitions but we must ultimately be prepared for an escalation not of our choosing.
For generations, the men and women of New Hampshire have supported our national defense both in uniform and industry. Our aerospace and defense sector has manufactured critical infrastructure and designed technological systems that power the world’s most advanced defense capabilities.
Arguably the greatest, most sophisticated, and consequently the most expensive system the United States government has ever supported is the 5th generation F-35 Lighting II, whose components are manufactured all over the state from large contractors to small family-run businesses. The F-35 generates $3.4 billion in annual revenue to New Hampshire and supports more than 4,200 direct and indirect jobs. This program helps sustain family households and leads to greater individual economic opportunity and mobility.
And for years the F-35 has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress. In the Senate, this program has been championed by our Senator Jeanne Shaheen. She has worked across the aisle with Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn and a host of other senators to ensure that America maintains its unmatched advantage in the air.
Recently though, a Congressional hearing in Washington criticized some aspects of the F-35 and questioned future funding for the program. Yet despite this ongoing domestic debate, outside the U.S., there is no question that the F-35 is the most advanced stealth fighter aircraft in the world. There is no debate about the F-35 in other countries, just envy.
And as the F-35 has developed over time, so too have our relationships with other countries and coalitions. No longer can the American service member be asked to police the world, and no longer can the U.S. taxpayer be expected to solely foot the bill for global security. The good news is we have strong allies and new partnerships who share our vision and who are ready to invest in their own protection. This shift in defense and foreign policy is no better illustrated than in our ability to manufacture the F-35 and partner with other countries.
Already the F-35 has been purchased by 14 international allies, and over the next five years it is projected that 50% of total F-35 production will be purchased by international partners. It only makes sense that as countries stand up in their own active defense they step up in cost sharing too. Those who share our values and goals should be trusted with the capabilities to defend themselves. This will serve America’s interests, enhance security, and mitigate both the cost to taxpayers and sacrifice of servicemembers.
There is also a stark reality that if we do not partner with other countries and allow them to invest in their own security that we are making the world far more dangerous. Without these partnerships through the F-35, we may drive foreign countries straight to Russia or China, who would be more than happy to develop or strengthen military and diplomatic ties. Our loss is their gain — and only compounded more when the decision is ours to make.
Moving forward as more efficiencies are made and partnerships are enhanced, our country will reap the returns on our investment in the F-35. We have greater leverage with a country who works with us and our systems than when they work with systems designed by our adversaries. These new strategic relationships we create when working together with partners will increase international trade and help ensure global security.
The F-35 is more than just a fighter jet, more than just a technological global security system — it is a true global partnership and tool of diplomacy as we structure deals that encourage other nations to respect allies and realize regional and global threats.
Here in New Hampshire, we have a vibrant and dynamic aerospace and defense industry which has protected us, created jobs and prosperity, and spun off countless other businesses. We proudly play our role to meet the demands of our nation’s safety, and we only stand to benefit further when we partner with countries around the world who stand with us as equals in global security.