Rein in F-35 aircraft program to salvage billions of dollars

Your Jan. 30 story “Fighters in dogfight for Congress support” on requests for more fighter jets picked up on the canary in a coalmine: The number of our fighter jets has plummeted in recent years, and many of the existing fleet are older than the pilots who fly them.

But the Department of Defense could make a bad situation worse by pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into new
F-35 fighter aircraft, whose cost overruns are making Boston’s Big Dig tunnel construction fiasco look like a walk in the park.

Once hailed as a cost-effective and versatile fighter, the F-35 is now nearly 48 percent over budget, consuming an unprecedented $300 billion — half the annual DoD budget. Even worse, it appears that this supposed jack-of-all-trades is truly the master of none: By the time it actually enters service, the F-35 will likely have outdated stealth capabilities and will not have the range to reach today’s and tomorrow's strategic targets.

At a per-aircraft cost almost as high as the elite F-22 Raptor and twice the price of the Navy’s next-generation F-18 Super Hornets, the F-35 is a status quo aircraft that comes with a colossal price tag.

Congress could save hundreds of billions of dollars by simply purchasing fewer F-35s — funds that could otherwise be used to pay for an economic stimulus package, to provide health insurance to uninsured veterans, or purchase other advanced fighter aircraft. In these times of uncertain national and economic security, reining in the out-of-control F-35 program is the smart choice.


 Company supports clean trade in diamonds

From Esther V. Kanaimba, public and corporate affairs manager, Debswana Diamond Co.

Debswana wishes to clarify some of the issues you carried in your recent report (“Watchdogs hit Jefferson on ‘blood diamond’ trips,” Jan. 23), particularly some of the specific questions raised on which part of the report was based.

Based on our research, we can say with complete certainty that Debswana did not hire lobbyists to draft alternative legislation to the proposed Clean Diamond Trade Act. In fact, the company fully and actively supported the Hall legislation (former Rep. Tony Hall, D-Ohio). However, as is often the case in the legislative process, there were some concerns that initial drafts of Rep. Hall’s legislation might be overly broad and inadvertently affect the legitimate diamond-producing countries, like Botswana, whose economic success has been, and continues to be, built on diamonds.

However, following consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, later drafts of the legislation, crafted by Rep. Hall himself, adequately addressed these concerns, and were therefore fully supported by Debswana. The Clean Diamond Trade Act fully supports the Kimberly Process, an intergovernmental rough-diamond certification scheme, in which Botswana and the United States are members, along with 72 other countries.

We also wish to state that Debswana did hire Hill and Knowlton to conduct an educational campaign in the major diamond-consuming markets called “Diamonds for Development.” The purpose of it was to ensure there was an accurate understanding, amongst all stakeholders, that diamonds from Botswana, the world’s largest producer by value, had never had any association with conflict, and that diamonds were the principle source of revenue to this democratic African country.

We hope this clarifies issues for your readers.

Gaborone, Botswana