For years, critics of defense spending have used the V-22 as almost a poster child for wrongheaded defense programs. Proponents of reduced defense spending, including the President’s deficit commission, included the V-22 as an example of a program they would eliminate. Some analysts still refer to the tragic accidents that occurred a decade or more ago during the aircraft’s development. Despite ten years of nearly flawless performance, V-22 critics continue to attack the Osprey.
Now the draft 2012 Defense Bill by the House Appropriations Committee has made what can only be characterized as the definitive statement in favor of the V-22. “The Committee believes that the performance of the V–22 Osprey aircraft has laid to rest all doubts about its operational effectiveness. The aircraft has been successfully deployed to forward operating areas since 2007 and most recently was instrumental in the recovery of a downed Air Force pilot during the Libya conflict.” What the Committee does not mention but is well known to those who follow the defense and aerospace world is that the Air Force Special Operations version of the V-22 is proving particularly valuable.
The committee went even further in its support for the Osprey program in urging the Department of Defense to request the authority for a new multiyear procurement. The program is currently finishing the fourth and final year of such a multiyear. Multiyear procurements reduce Congressional and DoD budgetary flexibility but can save significant amounts of money by improving the efficiency with which materials are procured and work is scheduled. By pressing the Pentagon to request a multiyear, the committee is signaling its belief in the correctness of the plan to acquire nearly 500 of the aircraft.
The committee report has broader implications for advocates of reduced defense spending. How are they going to get the reductions they seek if they cannot cancel programs such as the V-22? What if they are wrong about other programs they have targeted such as the F-35? In fact, in many ways the F-35 has suffered from the same kind of bad press as the V-22 did. Like the latter, the F-35 program has initiated a major effort to fix problems in the aircraft. So far, that program is bearing fruit and the F-35 is on its way to being the world’s premier stealth fighter for the 21st century. What are the critics going to do when two of their favorite targets, the V-22 and the F-35 are taken off the table?
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