Raptor down (budgetarily)

I emerge from the land of no internet or email to hear about today's crucial Senate vote to delete funding for additional F-22 "Raptor" fighter planes. For why this was an even-more-crucial-than-it-seems sign of whether the new Administration was serious about SecDef Robert Gates' impressive speeches about bringing rationality to defense spending, see here, here, here, and here, for starters. For much more about the F-22 from the Project on Government Oversight, here, and from the Center for Defense Information here. For a summary of why the vote matters, consider this statement from retired Army General Paul Eaton, of Iraq fame, from the National Security Network:

"In stripping $1.75 billion in funds to build seven more F-22 Raptors from the Defense Authorization bill, the Senate has brought our military spending one step closer to matching America's military priorities for the 21st century. The Cold War relic was a symbol of the outdated, unnecessary, and expensive weapon systems that have burdened our defense budgets for far too long....Misplaced defense budget priorities such as additional funding for the F-22 both constrained America's military from adequately addressing the threats we face today and took money away from more essential strategic imperatives."

This issue isn't over -- the House still has to act, and there is the conference etc. And we are nowhere close to having a defense budget that is "rational" in some larger sense. But on both merits and symbolism, this is a significant moment. And as matter of political anthropology, it seems as if President Obama's atypically hard-line promise to veto the entire spending bill if it included more money for the Raptor had its effect.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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