US cuts make F-16 sale more urgent

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter

Fri, Jul 08, 2011 - Page 3

Amid announcements of defense cuts by US President Barack Obama’s administration and workforce reductions at Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-16 aircraft, the US government should take a fresh look at the impact of selling the fighter aircraft long sought by Taiwan, the US-Taiwan Business Council said on Wednesday.

Following news that the US defense budget could be cut by US$1.4 trillion over 12 years, Lockheed Martin on Sunday announced plans to cut 1,500 jobs across the country ahead of expected flattening demand from the US defense establishment.

In a press communique on Wednesday, the US-Taiwan Business Council called on Washington to consider the positive impact of selling the 66 F-16C/D aircraft requested by Taiwan since 2006.

News of the layoffs at Lockheed Martin, it wrote, “highlights the need for the US government to reassess its position on the sale and to consider the positive economic impact of releasing F-16s to Taiwan.”

“The US-Taiwan Business Council joins Senator John Cornyn of Texas in calling on the Obama Administration to ‘end its blockade of Taiwan’s request to purchase new F-16s,’” it said.

Cornyn late last month said he would block a full review by the Senate for the appointment of William Burns as US deputy secretary of state until Washington agrees to the F-16 sale and ensures the release of a long-delayed Pentagon report to Congress on the airpower balance in the Taiwan Strait.

“The recent Perryman Report shows that the follow-on sale of F-16s to Taiwan would have a positive economic impact around the country, generating about US$8.7 billion in gross output and sustaining approximately 16,000 direct and indirect jobs over the life of the program,” US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said in the press release, referring to the report released by the Perryman Group, a Texas-based economic and financial analysis firm, on June 22.

Allowing the sale of the F-16s to proceed would have a “significant economic boost” to states such as Ohio and Florida, where unemployment is at 8.6 percent and 10.6 percent respectively, Hammond-Chambers said.

“Reports estimate that 1,800 workers in Ohio and 1,900 in Florida depend on an F-16 sale to Taiwan. Should the Taiwan sale fail to materialize, however, current orders would only sustain the F-16 production line for another two years,” he says.

Based on current orders, the F-16 plant is expected to close at the end of 2013.

“There is already a strong strategic case in favor of releasing F-16s to Taiwan,” Hammond-Chambers is quoted as saying. “US economic security would also be well served by the sale, given the reported positive impact on the employment picture in numerous communities around America.”

However, the Obama administration has not moved forward on the sale because of concerns over China’s sensitivities, he said.