U.S. Sen. John McCain said Tuesday he fully supports bringing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Luke Air Force Base, but he has issues with the amount of money it cost to develop the jet.
“I think there is a great deal of waste in weapons procurements,” he told a packed house at the Goodyear Justice Center. “And we need to address that.
“The F-35 is the first trillion-dollar weapon system,” he said. “We can’t afford to pay when the cost is more than originally contracted for.”
The problem lies in the contracts being signed, McCain said, which are open-ended and have led to further bloated military spending.
“I think the F-35 has seen terrible, outrageous cost overruns, and we ought to go to fixed contracts,” he said. “We need the F-35, but at what cost?”
Eglin Air Force Base in Florida will be the first to acquire the F-35s. The second training base will be chosen from among Luke and bases in New Mexico, Idaho and Tucson.
In discussing the economy at the town hall meeting, McCain said the Obama administration’s plan to reverse the downturn did not work, and it is time for a new approach.
“The Democrats had the White House and majorities in the House and Senate,” he said. “And what happened? They mortgaged our children’s future even more. We’ve tried their spending plan. Now let’s try cutting.”
McCain said he is aware of the perception of Congress at the moment, noting the current approval rating of 10 percent and adding, “I’ve yet to meet anyone in that 10 percent at these meetings.” He said he has heard time and again from people who want him to reach compromises with the other side of the aisle, that Washington is polarized and unproductive.
“Folks, I’m ready to compromise,” he said. “But not on principle.”
McCain said his stance has long been anti-tax increases. To support them now, he said, would be wrong.
“If I support raising taxes now, well, then what did my campaign promises even mean,” he said. “And I’ve never seen a time in our history, when our country was hurting economically, where raising taxes did any good.”
On the subject of Social Security, McCain said the time has come where difficult decisions will have to be made.
“We may have to gradually, and I emphasize the word ‘gradually,’ raise the retirement age,” he said. “People are living longer. Right now I can’t guarantee you’ll get Social Security benefits because the money just isn’t there.”
When it came to issues outside Arizona, McCain first brought up the situation in Libya, saying there are many challenges ahead but that he is happy to see the Libyan people wrest their freedom away from a “bloodthirsty dictator.”
“If he had stayed in power there can be no doubt he would have continued his efforts to export terror,” McCain said. “The last I heard they had raided his compound but had not yet located (Moammar) Gadhafi, but for all intents and purposes this is over.”
McCain said the Arab Spring movement has shown how much of an impact the actions of a few people can have.
“As risky as it is, I think overall (the Arab Spring) is a very good thing for the world,” he said. “There are incredible things going on. We live in interesting times.”
Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.