Cut the Joint Strike Fighter, not funds for veterans' benefits

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski deserves praise for trying to reduce the claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs ("Senate committee taking up VA claims backlog," June 18). Congress should also work on repealing sequestration, which is hurting veterans in particular. Due to the sequester, veterans are being shut out of understaffed Tricare clinics that have furloughed medical staff. Sixty thousand homeless veterans are losing federal housing aid. And children attending military operated schools are losing critical school days.

But to repeal the sequester, we need to identify wasteful programs that we can cut instead. And the Pentagon should not be immune.

The $1.5 trillion Joint Strike Fighter jet should be a prime target for cuts. Originally supposed to be a cheap, multi-purpose fighter, it's become the most expensive program in U.S. military history. Yet experts say it's not nearly as capable as our current (and vastly cheaper) fighter jets. Test pilots are even saying that it's difficult to see threats like enemy fighters from inside the poorly designed cockpit. The Air Force has had to lower its performance requirements for this albatross twice in 12 months just to keep the program alive. Why not cut this program and buy current jets instead?

However we find savings, we shouldn't do it on the backs of veterans.

Walter Ridley, Hyattsville

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