By Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth
During my time as lieutenant governor and as chairman of the Alabama Military Stability Commission, I have worked closely with the Legislature to ensure our state retains, protects, and improves the federal military infrastructure located here.
Our goal is simple – we want Alabama to remain the nation’s most welcoming state for military service members, dependents, and veterans.
For that reason, I am concerned that the defense budget President Biden recently proposed does not adequately fund the F-35 Lightning II, the most advanced multi-role fighter jet in the world today.
The F-35, which brings superior agility, greater firepower, and cutting-edge stealth technology to the fight, must continue to be a federal priority, especially with so much geopolitical instability in the world.
The state-of-the art jet’s very existence is a deterrent against potential foreign aggressors.
Inadequate funding for our nation’s most advanced warfighter platform sends a message that is both far-reaching and alarming, and it signals to adversaries, such as Russia and China, that the United States is not prepared to oppose their tyranny and aggression.
At home, inadequate funding shows the American people – especially aerospace workers in Alabama – that Congress talks about creating jobs, but it is not serious about supporting the manufacturing community.
While many people know Alabama is a global leader in automotive manufacturing, they may be less aware of our state’s long and storied contributions to the production of high-tech military aircraft.
The F-35 program already supports more than 600 jobs at nearly 20 different companies throughout Alabama, and local manufacturers in various cities, towns, and communities play an integral role in the aircraft’s supply chain.
Building cutting-edge aircraft creates well-paying, long-lasting, 21st Century jobs for Alabamians, and it keeps their families resilient in the face of challenges like skyrocketing inflation, rising interest rates, and the rapidly increasing costs of living.
Further, Dannelly Field in Montgomery has been selected as the headquarters for a squadron of F-35 fighter jets, which is expected to create an additional 1,000 jobs in the River Region area., produce $70 million in initial contract opportunities for local and state companies, and generate $3 billion in new capital investment.
This exciting opportunity for Alabama is a direct result of leadership from members of our Congressional delegation, all of whom have my thanks for working to further our state’s legacy as a welcoming home for the military and a trailblazer in building and developing superior American aerospace technology.
If we are to continue leading the way in aerospace manufacturing, we need Congress to clear the path toward our success by fully funding the F-35 program and ramping up to peak production levels that create jobs and keep the fleet affordable.
The F-35 supports our communities with high-tech jobs and investments while ensuring our men and women in uniform have the world’s most advanced technology to successfully complete their missions and return home safely to their families.
Alabamians are eagerly awaiting and planning for the F-35 to arrive later this year, and I have every confidence it is coming home to the best fighter wing in the world.