I am proud to represent Senate District 12 in the Alabama State Senate, an area in Northeast Alabama rich in patriotism and love of country.
Calhoun County is the home of Anniston Army Depot, and the Center for Domestic Preparedness, as well as the destination of choice of many past military retirees from Fort McClellan.
So, I was encouraged to hear the President speak about “modernizing our military to safeguard stability and deter aggression” in his State of the Union address.
As we have seen across the world these last two years and in recent weeks with China flying a spy balloon over our country, now is not the time to reduce the size of our Air Force, which is already smaller and older than it has ever been.
As the Mitchell Institute described in a report about defense readiness last year, “the Air Force lacks the force capacity, lethality, and survivability” to fight a peer conflict and defend our homeland. The Air Force has less than half its fighter force and only one-third of the bombers it had in 1990.
In the wake of Chinese aggression, America needs to be aggressive, and the F-35 provides a foundation for American aerospace dominance that cannot be denied.
The F-35 strengthens national security and enhances global partnerships with fourteen allied nations flying the F-35, along with Finland and Switzerland announcing the F-35 as the winner of their fighter competition last year.
In addition, Germany announced intentions to purchase F-35s in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Not to mention, our friends to the north announced that they will replace the Canadian fleet of CF-18s with the F-35 at an estimated cost of $19 billion.
The F-35 is not only important to the Department of Defense and global security, but it is also a program that is crucial for Alabama with twenty-one suppliers in the state, almost 400 jobs, and a $30.6 million annual economic impact.
The United States must continue to invest in F-35 modernization, production, and sustainment including funding for full rate production and initial spare parts.
I am thankful that Congressman Mike Rogers is leading the charge as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee to protect our men and women in uniform by ensuring they have the materials, supplies, and equipment they need to keep our country safe and secure.
Keith Kelley represents Senate District 12 in the Alabama State Senate
Editors note: This article was updated by the author February 16, 2023
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