Senator Feingold’s dangerous national security record: war planes and submarines

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Senator Feingold has a dangerous record on national security issues, including changing his tune on a warplane he tried to kill and disagreeing with U.S. admirals on the number of submarines our Navy needs to keep us safe.

On the F/A-18:

In a bid to garner more support as he runs to recapture his old U.S. Senate seat, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has begun to praise the capabilities of a warplane that he once tried to kill. In what he has dubbed his “Fiscal Fitness” plan, the former two-term Senator and ex-Obama Administration official offers a series of policy prescriptions that he claims will save taxpayers money. One of Feingold’s proposals is to kill the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which seeks to provide the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps with a next-generation fighter, in favor of retaining F-16 and F/A-18 aircraft.

As a Senator, Feingold repeatedly sought to cut funding for the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Using both stand-alone legislation and floor amendments, Feingold vigorously waged war on military readiness by attempting to force the military to stop buying the airplane.

“The Secretary of Defense shall terminate the F/A-18E/F aircraft program,” one Feingold bill declared.

Feingold’s call for the Air Force to continue its dependence on aging but still lethal F-16 is out of step with the latest thinking by defense leaders and analysts. Recently, a Congressional committee that shared Feingold’s skepticism of the F-35 being able to live up to promises, began the process of examining whether or not the F-22 Raptor, still the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world, should be brought back into production. The Air Force, thanks to budget cuts, stopped well short of buying as many of the airplanes as experts suggested would be necessary to maintain a strong airpower edge.

Why Feingold’s plan doesn’t call for increasing F-22 purchases is unclear; it could simply be that Russ Feingold opposes new warplanes that allow the military to maintain its vaunted technological superiority. Alternatively, Feingold could have omitted the suggestion because his “Fiscal Fitness” plan wasn’t about putting forward serious policy ideas and was instead designed to look tough without actually focusing on real policy ideas.

On submarines:

Two-term Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold is desperate to get his old seat back in Wisconsin, and to that end he unveiled a policy plan that he calls “Fiscal Fitness.” According to his campaign, the plan is designed to show that Feingold is serious about cutting wasteful spending in Washington. But there’s a problem with the plan.

A big problem.

In his haste to contrive “savings” for taxpayers, Feingold calls for a reduction in the U.S. Navy’s submarine force. Specifically, Feingold wants the Navy to not replace some Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines as they retire from service. The powerful submarines represent a key part of the United State’s nuclear deterrence capability, a capability that has helped prevent a nuclear conflict.

According to the U.S. Navy, there are currently 14 Ohio-class submarines in service. They are the largest submarines in the fleet and they are getting old. Very old. In fact, by the time all Ohio-class boats retire, they will have been in service longer than any other submarines in U.S. history. Concerns about safety as well as aging technology have led the Navy to plan on replacing the 14 submarines with a fleet of 12 new subs.

In his “Fiscal Fitness” plan, Feingold mocks the Navy’s plan to build 12 new submarines, insisting there is no need to build that many replacement ships. “At present, 12 submarines are slated to be produced by 2042, but the United States could reconfigure the number of missiles deployed per submarine and produce 8 submarines instead,” the plan declares.

That’s not true, according to top Navy admirals. Last year, Rear Admiral Joseph Tofalo was asked by a reporter about a plan by some Senate Democrats to reduce the number of submarines used to replace the old Ohio-class boats. The concept is identical to what Feingold is proposing in his “Fiscal Fitness” plan.

“We have to cover two oceans at once and all of the targets that go with each of these oceans,” Tofalo said before explaining that the absolute minimum number of nuclear missile subs needed is 10 – not the 8 that Feingold claims would do the job. ” The combatant commander says that number is ten, ten operational SSBNs,” the admiral said. “Eight just wouldn’t do it.”