By Kenneth Epps
Members of the Canadian Joint Strike Fighter Industrial Group (CJIG) will host a webinar on January 30 to promote the economic benefits of a purchase of the F-35 Joint Striker aircraft by Canada. The webinar is advertised as a free webcast open to all Canadians.
No doubt the CJIG will present a Canadian F-35 purchase as a golden opportunity that will result in substantial economic benefits and jobs for Canadians. But a timely report from William Hartung of the U.S. Center for International Policy suggests that all the glitter is not gold.
According to Hartung, Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the F-35 program, has exaggerated the projected U.S. job creation figures and other economic benefits from production of the Joint Strike Fighter. In particular, Hartung states that “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 the field, should be on the order of 50,000 to 60,000 jobs.”
It is not unreasonable to assume that if Lockheed Martin is inflating figures for a U.S. audience then it might be inclined to do so for a Canadian one, too. Moreover, and this is a point that Hartung does not raise, data from Lockheed Martin reveals nothing about the job creation potential from the acquisition of rival aircraft, let alone from government expenditures on other programs. There is no incentive for Lockheed Martin to make such comparisons. Canadians are left to wonder if alternative government purchases would lead to more jobs in Canada. The answer is almost certainly yes.
Hartung’s paper exposes a fundamental flaw in the arguments from proponents of F-35 fighter aircraft. Projections and analysis of F-35 program benefits are based on data provided by Lockheed Martin, a less-than-independent source whose information has been found wanting by external analysts. Marketing is at the core of Lockheed Martin’s leadership of the F-35 program, and marketing does not necessarily rely on facts to make its case.