Lockheed Martin claims that the development and construction of the F-35 combat aircraft sustains 125,000 jobs in 46 states. The company describes the F-35 as “the single largest job creator in the Department of Defense program.” Lockheed Martin’s numbers have been routinely reported in the media, and have become a mainstay of the debate over the fate of the F-35 program. There’s just one problem with Lockheed Martin’s assertions about F-35 job creation. They are greatly exaggerated, as documented in this report:
•Lockheed Martin’s claim of 125,000 F-35-related jobs is roughly double the likely number of jobs sustained by the program. The real figure, based on standard estimating procedures used in other studies in thefield, should be on the order of 50,000 to 60,000 jobs.
•Similarly, the company’s claim that there is significant work being done on the F-35 in 46 states does nothold up to scrutiny. Even by Lockheed Martin’s own estimates, just two states – Texas and California – account for over half of the jobs generated by the F-35. The top five states, which include Florida, Connecticutand New Hampshire – account for 70% of the jobs.
•Eleven states have fewer than a dozen F-35-related jobs, a figure so low that it is a serious stretch to count them among the 46 states doing significant work on the program. These states are Iowa, South Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, Delaware, Nebraska, North Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana and Wyoming.
•This study identifies 138 major F-35 contractors operating in 231 separate locations. Well over half of the contractors identified – 88 – were foreign companies conducting F-35 work outside of the United States. This does not necessarily indicate that a majority of the work on the plane is being done overseas, but it does suggest substantial outsourcing of F-35 work. Countries with the most identified production sites include Italy (36), Australia (30), the United Kingdom (24) and Turkey . The United Kingdom is the largest participant in terms of sheer amount of production, but the work is concentrated in fewer sites than in some other countries mentioned.
•There is also evidence indicating that Northrop Grumman and Honeywell have used or produced F-35 components in China – including specialized magnets and sensor components – in violation of U.S. laws banning the use of Chinese parts in U.S. defense equipment. The companies assert that they have stopped using Chinese parts, but this issue will bear watching as production of the F-35 moves forward.
•The four most important F-35 contractors – Lockheed Martin ($4.1 million), BAE Systems ($1.4 million), Northrop Grumman ($3.5 million), and United Technologies, the parent company of F-35 engine-maker Pratt and Whitney ($2.1 million) – have made a total of $11.1 million in campaign contributions in the 2011/2012 and 2013/2014 election cycles. The vast majority of these contributions have gone to key members of the armed services or defense appropriations committees in the House and Senate, or to members of the 39-member House F-35 caucus.
•The top five recipients of contributions from F-35 contractors in the House of Representatives in the past two election cycles are House Armed Services Chair Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, $218,650; F-35 Caucus co-chair Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), $195,950; Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), $162,500; F-35 Caucus co-chair John Larson (D-CT), $137,450; and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), $85,000
Given the uncertainties surrounding the F-35 program,which has been identified as a possible budget-cutting target by a wide range of non-governmental and governmental bodies, it makes sense for communities that are looking to the F-35 as an important part of their economic futures to develop fallback plans that can be implemented in the event of the cancellation or scaling back of the F-35 program. States like Connecticut – home of the Pratt and Whitney division of United Technologies, which builds the engine for the F-35 – have taken the lead in this area by establishing their own transition commissions to develop strategies to diversify their economies (for a list of organizations that have recommended scaling back or canceling the F-35 program.